Tag-arkiv: Inspiration

Quote on Writing

Conrad Busken Huet

This quote reminds me that writing in the first place is something you just want to do – and as such it shouldn’t be aimed directly at an audience. Liberty is available if you dare to let go of your always weary “Lizard Brain”, as Seth Godin calls  it – the part that is always weary about the consequences. The Dutch journalist and literature critic Busken Huet (1826 -1886) apparently did well in writing freely what he thought, but by publishing it he created many conflicts:

Zijn doel, als van ieder werkelijk schrijver – van de lyrische dichter tot de man van wetenschap toe – was zijn gedachten in een zo klaar, zo suggestief, zo adequaat mogelijke vorm uit te drukken waarbij het gelezen willen worden een secundaire vraag van zelfbesef en financiële noodzaak is.(…) Deze denkmoed, onafhankelijk, candide en wereldvreemd is de motor van alle veroveringen in het rijk van de geest en was ook de motor van Huets kritisch vermogen. Maar wie die gave bezit en wie er zo mee woekert als Huet gedaan heeft, moet afstand doen van het verlangen in ongestoorde vrede met zijn medemensen te leven.

bron: Jan Romein en Annie Romein-Verschoor, Erflaters van onze beschaving.
Em. Querido’s Uitgeverij, Amsterdam 1977 page 728

My humble translation attempt:

“His aim, as that of any real writer – from the lyrical poet to the man of science – was to express his thoughts as clearly, as suggestive, as precise as possible, whereas the wish to be read is a secondary question of self-awareness and financial necessity. (…) This courage of thinking, independent, candid and otherwordly is the engine of all conquests in the spiritual world and was also the engine of Huet’s critical capabilities. But he who posses this gift and who makes it profitable as Huet has done, has to abandon the desire to live in undisturbed peace with his fellow human beings.”


Thomas Nydahl quotes regularly on his blog Occident from Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet. Three days ago the quote was about monotony, stating that an existence should be monotonous in order not to be monotonous. When life is lived the same way every day, then every little thing becomes important, and every little change huge. Therefore one will notice and admire every idea, sound, motion.

It is insanely easy to get distracted in our life full of information and impulses, but where does it leave us?

This is linked to the idea that one can gain freedom by limiting oneself. Freedom is something inside of us, hence Pessoa’s quote from the same book:

Liberty is the possibility of isolation.

* Original: A liberdade é a possibilidade do isolamento.

* Source: “A Factless Autobiography”. Richard Zenith Edition, Lisbon, 2006, p. 246 via Wikiquote

Writing is done in isolation, so:

When I write, I solemnly visit myself.

* Original: Quando escrevo, visito-me solenemente.

* Source: “A Factless Autobiography”. Richard Zenith Edition, Lisbon, 2006, p. 287 via Wikiquote

These ideas are simple and old… and forgotten?

I suppose that most people are keen on rushing away from liberty and isolation in order to avoid hearing their own thoughts. It is indeed questionable whether on can function well in our society if one hears its own voice, if one truly feels and thinks. I doubt it will make you rich for example.

But what about happiness, satisfaction, tranquility?

For me, one of the most impressive moments in my life, the most intense, was when I became aware of the beauty and the strength of seeing that one, small plant flowering in the middle of the vast Icelandic desert of rocks and dust. In that  breath-taking monotony the experience of seeing this plant became so strong and clear that it had and has a key influence upon my life.

Hail the caesar of your genius

After reading a post by Merlin Mann on the process of starting a project (and to keep going) and after listening to Elizabeth Gilbert in a TED-talk mentioned in the post about nursing your creativity, I understand that they offer a way to deal with one of the major obstacles for writers..

We all know it basically comes down to the old truth of “ You just have to work for it and all will be well”, but it is not so easy in practice for the majority of us..

Both clearly indicate that writing on a daily basis is the key to getting work done and creating possibilities to get inspired during the process. As Merlin puts it in a Tweet:

.“Creative work, summarized: In the time you set aside each day to work your ass off, ignore anything that makes you consider stopping.”

.To be able to do this for a longer period – what about a lifespan? – is undoubtable the key to success. As Merlin stresses, this “anything that makes you consider stopping” is no sinecure.

.The majority of those threats that endanger continuation are based upon fear, and this means fear in all its facets. That is easy to say as fear rules just about anything in our world, but when it comes to for example writing it is all the more clearly. Writing is listening to the voice within, digging for inspiration in the depths of a human being, listening to all the tails from the incredible feedreader in the unmeasurable caves of our head. And what voices will be more loud and clear than the ones that originate of fear?

.To ignore those voices and to keep digging for the gold is a major achievement, reminding me of many classical stories, like for example Frodo in “The Lord of the Rings”. Being a writer, an active and serious one, is going through a lot of darkness, traveling on a seemingly hopeless journey like Frodo did.

.But it is also a quest, something that has to be done, for not doing it equals giving up and letting life age you without truly saving your soul.



.In her speech on Tedtalk.com Elizabeth Gilbert tells about her way of dealing with the voices of fear. She admits that they are a serious threat to her existence as a well-functioning human and comes up with a solution. Although being aware that it is not the only and most dependable system possible she states that it does her good and advocates to people to try it out for themselves. The idea originates from ancient Greek and Roman times, and it is not only for that not a revolutionary new idea, but Elizabeth gives a positive approach to it that can be a great relief to many.

.Her “trick” is to put the source of inspiration outside the person and thereby putting the blame for many of the problems the voices in head come up with outside herself. It is in that way not her responsibility to produce another flawless bestseller or her fault when the day’s writing isn’t flowing at all, but it is the inspirational voice from outside her that lets her down. Following old Roman traditions she calls this voice a genius.

But unlike romantic ideas of writers, or any other creative persons, being struck by a sudden moment of inspiration, like an arrow of cupid’s bow, she definately holds on to the idea that all she has to do to let her genius work for her is to show up and work every day. That is the only way to blame her genius and not her, because she was there, writing at her desk, giving the genius a fair chance to work.


C.G. Rossetti – Dreamland

I read a handful of poems yesterday and liked two by C. G. Rossetti (1830-94). Easy to spot that she had something to do with the pre-raphaelite movement. In the poem Dreamland the same themes are apparent as in some of the paintings by this movement.


Where sunless rivers weep
Their waves into the deep,
She sleeps a charmèd sleep:
Awake her not.
Led by a single star,
She came from very far
To seek where shadows are
Her pleasant lot.

She left the rosy morn,
She left the fields of corn,
For twilight cold and lorn
And water springs.
Through sleep, as through a veil,
She sees the sky look pale,
And hears the nightingale
That sadly sings.

Rest, rest, a perfect rest
Shed over brow and breast;
Her face is toward the west,
The purple land.
She cannot see the grain
Ripening on hill and plain;
She cannot feel the rain
Upon her hand.

Rest, rest, forevermore
Upon a mossy shore;
Rest, rest at the heart’s core
Till time shall cease:
Sleep that no pain shall wake,
Night that no morn shall break,
Till joy shall overtake
Her perfect peace.

Source: gutenberg.org

I liked the image of the “waves into the deep” in the first couplet. It made me think that using nature to describe things is one thing, but using it right another. There is a world of difference between a painting of a landscape made by someone with an superficial eye or by someone with passion and devotion. Using nature in poems must be like that too. Yes, it has been done ever since people where able to write, and every symbol has been used numerous times (a rose, anyone?) but that doesn’t mean that it can be effective when used rightly.
The dead body let by a star and the contrast of the body “willingly” floating to the dark side, a side that is considered not a good place to be anyway, away from the rosy morn – fields of corn etc. is intriguing.

Thought about a Style

I read a little in the autobiography “Tove Ditlevsen Om Sig Selv” last night and noticed that the style of that book was somewhat unusual in my eyes. The Danish writer had written it in a light tone and without going into many details anywhere which meant that she didn’t spent more than a few lines on most of the thoughts of events. The result was a rather weird kind of storytelling as big emotional events all sounded almost like a sidenote. It was as if she didn’t really cared about them or had truly experienced the situations and where she said she cared it sounded as if she was telling that she cared about the little mouse being chased by the cat in the children-cartoon on tv. Her husband joining the resistance during WW II sounded like if she was discussing him joining a soccer- or biliardclub. I expected that she would say that joining the resistance would do him good as he was a little fat and this running around during the nights would probably help.

It reminded of a writing style of a woman magazine, where great events in life unfold without giving the impression that those events are fully experienced or lived through, as if they happened because that’s life and that is what people do so I, the writer, did it too and then I went on to do the next thing people do.
I never read anything by Tove Ditlevsen apart from what I just read last night, so without referring to her writings and her success I thought that it is probably one way to become successful as a writer. Use a light, easy style reminding of for example woman magazines and write a little more complicated stories, including more original thoughts and make it all a bit longer than an average short story in those magazines. It should be a way of writing a well readable book that might appeal to many.

Sources of inspiration for J.M.A. Biesheuvel.

After rereading some of the stories I eagerly read in my youth by the Dutch writer J.M.A. Biesheuvel I noticed that he actually gives clear hints about his ways of collecting material for his stories.
In for example the story Broos’ boze droom from the bundle Slechte Mensen (1973) Biesheuvel tells about a man who writes down his dreams that are a mixture of all sorts of events and combines this with weird stories heard from all sorts of people around him.
Looking at a number of Biesheuvel’s own stories this seems to be a valid explanation for the contents of a lot of his works. The majority of his short stories is packed with anecdotes and sometimes surreal situations with clear autobiographical elements. It creates a wonderful mixture of dialogues, events and images.

Another hint about this way of collecting material comes from the story Het Medaillon from the bundle De Angstkunstenaar where he tells about two window cleaners that visited the office where he worked and that told a lot of colourful stories. He continues by telling that he regrets that he can only remember one of the stories because “In those days I didn’t make notes yet (…)”. This story is also a good example of Biesheuvel’s style as it starts with a situation sketch that is later completely abandoned, a detail that adds to the feeling of a spontaneous and personal way of telling stories.

It seems like a practical way of composing stories that could fit me well as I like to write down all sorts of fragments, dialogues, thoughts and stories from inside my own brain or life around me. Combining some of them in short stories is a good way of using as much as I can.