There is a fairy story about the prince and the black stones. On top of a crystal mountain is a princess, i.e., the thing of highest worth, the thing desired. The prince, the hero, the questing self, wants to get to the princess, the thing of highest worth. He starts to climb the mountain, which is crystal and therefore extremely slippery, difficult. On the way, he does all right for a bit. Then these black stones in his path start to speak and they say, You are a fool. Why are you going up this mountain? You will never get to the top. In any case when you get to the top it won’t be worth it, there is nothing there. Or, You’re going to die of thirst, you’re going to die of hunger. This continues all the way up; he becomes more and more depressed, and he thinks, I will never, never get to the top. Then, of course, eventually the hero does get to the top and frees the princess. He looks back and realizes that the black stones were the souls of all the people who had failed before and therefore didn’t want anyone else to succeed, because the only thing that justified them was their own failure. That’s a useful story if you are a writer, because the way is full of black stones. All you know is that there is this thing of highest value, of great worth, that you want to keep trying to achieve. Every time, up the slippery rock, with no sense of being able to get there, you simply have to stuff your ears and keep climbing.
—Jeanette Winterson, The Art of Fiction No. 150
Interviewed by Audrey Bilger
Listen carefully to first criticisms made of your work. Note just what it is about your work that critics don’t like—then cultivate it. That’s the only part of your work that’s individual and worth keeping.
—Jean Cocteau (via mttbll)
The thing that is both known and unknown, the most unknown and the best unknown, this is what we are looking for when we write. We go toward the best known unknown thing, where knowing and not knowing touch, where we hope we will know what is unknown. Where we hope we will not be afraid of understanding the incomprehensible, facing the invisible, hearing the inaudible, thinking the unthinkable, which is of course: thinking.
—THREE STEPS ON THE LADDER OF WRITING
“An honorable human relationship – that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word “love” – is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.
It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation.
It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity.
It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us.”
—― Adrienne Rich, On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose, 1966-1978
One writes out of one thing only — one’s own experience. Everything depends on how relentlessly one forces from this experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give. This is the only real concern of the artist, to recreate out of the disorder of life that order which is art.
Writing is not out there, it does not happen out there, it does not come from outside. On the contrary it comes from deep within.
—Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing