Facts and Poetry

Thoreau always had two notebooks—one for facts, and the other for poetry. But he had a hard time keeping them apart, as he often found facts more poetic than his poems. They are, he said, translated from the language of the earth into that of the sky. Thoreau knew that the imagination uses facts to fabricate images and even delicate architectures. One summer night, looking up into the sky at a particularly beautiful, scintillating star, he thought perhaps another traveler somewhere else along the coast was, like him, looking up at that same star and said, ‘Of what unsuspected triangles are stars the apex?’”

— Jean Frémon, “Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Gloves”

Controlling Experience

Writing is control. The part of the university in which I teach should properly be called the Controlling Experience Department. Experience—mystifying, overwhelming, conscious, subconscious—rolls over everybody. We try to adapt, to learn, to accommodate, sometimes resisting, other times submitting to, whatever confronts us. But writers go further: they take this largely shapeless bewilderment and pour it into a mold of their own devising. Writing is all resistance””

— Zadie Smith, Intimations: Six Essays

The Work is an End

If you can work in such a way that the process will be pleasurable enough that even if nothing comes of it, the work is an end in and of itself—then you’ll be ok. It’s not a means to an end, the work is an end.”

— Jia Tolentino, On writing for the sake of writing