David Letterman on Doing Good Work

You were innovating out of necessity?

I never knew if the stupider things we did or the more traditional things we did would work. I didn’t know if the stupid stuff would alienate people. I didn’t know if the traditional stuff would be more appealing. And then, when I look back on it now, of course the answer is, you want to do the weird thing.

David Letterman / NYT

Ai Wei Wei on Art

It’s not really about how much you have, but rather about how much you make out of it.

~ Ai Wei Wei / Interview

Agnes Denes on Art

So I was on my own—totally. And there’s something good about that. Because not only did you dig deeper into yourself, but adversity—in other words, not getting acknowledgements from outside—brings out the best in you. To react to it and to become better.

~ Agnes Denes / Interview

Jasper Johns on Work

I would tend to say that I do what I do as well as possible and that most people don’t.

~ Jasper Johns / Interview

Jasper Johns on Work

Working is very important to me. Probably because as a child I was taught that work was good. I don’t believe it intellectually but I identify with that idea. So it’s probably just like a habit.

~ Jasper Johns / Interview

Donald Woodman on Self-Belief

I think the inspirational stuff comes from yourself. You have to believe in yourself. As you once said, in something I read about you, there’s a quote from Sylvia Plath: “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” You have to trust your own voices and your own confidence, in spite of criticism. What makes an artist’s career is not the immediate trajectory, acceptance, or rejection; it’s being able to stay in there and have a career in art and stick to your voice, follow where your imagination takes you, and not respond to what sells or what people encourage you to do. For people who want to be artists, I think that’s the hardest lesson to learn.

~ Donald Woodman / Interview

Wim Wenders on Art

“… You have to find what you can do better than anyone else and what you have in yourself that no-one else has.”

~ Wim Wenders / Louisiana Channel

Tom Sachs on Work

Can you imagine getting paid really, really well to do something that you didn’t love to do? What a horrible curse that would be.

~ Tom Sachs / Louisiana Channel

Charles Bukowski on Art

Some people like what you do, some people hate what you do but most people don’t give a damn.

~ Charles Bukowski

Richard Ford on Sweating

“… but then I think well, you know, my wish as a writer… is to write masterpieces. Why shouldn’t I work that hard? Why should it be simple? … Why shouldn’t it take four years?… Art is heavy lifting… I don’t mind sweating.”

~ Richard Ford / Louisiana Channel

Louise Glück on Originality

“You have to live your life if you’re going to do original work. Your work will come out of an authentic life …”

~ Louise Glück

Margaret Howell on Work

I hate a job half done. Even if it’s housework, you have to do a thorough job. I don’t have a dishwasher because I prefer to do it myself.

~ Margaret Howell / Guardian, 3rd October 2020

Stephen King on Money

The money isn’t very important. The idea is to take care of your family and have enough left over to buy books and go to the movies once a week. As a goal in life, ‘getting rich’ strikes me as fairly ludicrous. The goal is to do what God made you for and not hurt anyone if you can help it.

~ Stephen King / NYT, August 13, 2000

Barbara Ehrenreich on Slavery

What you don’t necessarily realize when you start selling your time by the hour is that what you’re really selling is your life.

~ Barbara Ehrenreich

Janan Ganesh on Happiness

It takes minimal life experience to know that happiness comes from a small number of disproportionately important things. Perhaps as few as two. One is a fulfilling job. The other is a vital private life, which could mean, according to taste, devotion to one person or what George Michael hailed as “fast love”.

~ Janan Ganesh / FT, February 7 2020

Edward Lucas on Flow

But saving my mental energies helps me achieve the day’s greatest pleasure: periods of intense, unbroken concentration.

~ Edward Lucas / Times, February 03, 2020

Brian Cox on the Long Haul

‘…It’s the long haul for you. You’ve got to understand that. You will have moderate success in your career. But it is the long haul that counts.’ And he was absolutely right.

~ Brian Cox / Financial Times, 17th January 2020

Albert Camus on Poverty

“What could a man want that is better than poverty? I do not say misery, any more than I mean the work without hope of the modern proletarian. But I do not see that one could desire more than poverty with an active leisure.”

~ Albert Camus

Seneca on Bustle

“For love of bustle is not industry, – it is only the restlessness of a hunted mind”

~ Seneca

Robert Harris on Writing

“It’s a profession, a job,” he says. “There’s a terrible preciousness about writing. I think that if you write, you’ve just got to get on and write.”

~ Robert Harris / Financial Times, 20th December 2019

Seneca on Work

“Nothing is so certain as that the evils of idleness can be shaken off by hard work.”

~ Seneca

Paul Theroux on Being a Writer

And what was it that I most liked about my work? That I had no boss, no employees, no rivals, no competitors—the freedom of being a writer? That it was a way of dealing with my life, transforming my experiences, finding ways to understand it—recording life’s joys, making its tribulations bearable, and also, in writing, easing the passage of time? Making a living this way, my own way, self-employed—that was something to like.

Paul Theroux / On the Plain of Snakes

Antonio Pierro on Routines

Three meals a day. Work hard. Keep yourself clean. Get enough sleep. What else is there?

~ Antonio Pierro

Tsunetomo Yamamoto on the Shortness of Life

“Human life is truly a short affair. It is better to live doing the things that you like. It is foolish to live within this dream of a world seeing unpleasantness and doing only things that you do not like.”

~ Tsunetomo Yamamoto / Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai

Aaron Copland on Art

“The main thing is to be satisfied with your work yourself. It’s useless to have an audience happy if you are not happy.”

~ Aaron Copland