…all artists have some inclination, to greater or lesser degrees, to play it safe. I occasionally fight this feeling in myself, and I will be the first to admit that it’s cowardice, pure and simple. You think, well, if I don’t entirely commit, I can’t entirely fail. If I hold something back, I am protecting myself (if/when other people don’t like it). This is literally the opposite of the truth. When you hold things back, when you don’t commit completely to your ideas and trust completely in your own instincts, you are guaranteeing your own failure—even if you end up having commercial success. You have got to trust yourself and only yourself, and while of course you have to trust your intellect, you have got to trust your instincts even more, which are always more artistically pure than your conscious thoughts. Of course, the vast majority of artists do not do this at all. They say the same shit everyone else does, they write what’s fashionable, they write what they know will be approved of (even if it looks "experimental" on the surface). In short, they let themselves be lead by their critics and by their contemporaries. What a pointless fucking existence. Succeeding at this, or at any art, is about the hardest thing a human can do. But taking the coward’s way out not only leads to bad art; it’s habit forming. It becomes the way you approach life.
Phillip Meyer in conversation with Smith Henderson
Barnes & Noble interviews
June 4, 2014