The Art of Perfection

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“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” — Aristotle

There’s a myth about Michelangelo working on the Sistine Chapel.

One day, someone was watching the Italian artist spend an insane amount of time laboring over a small, hidden corner of the chapel’s ceiling.

Surprised by Michelangelo’s persistence to make that obscure corner as perfect as possible, they asked the artist who would ever know whether it was perfect or not.

Michelangelo replied, “I will.”

Even though the great Renaissance artist considered himself to be a sculptor, and wasn’t a big fan of painting, he did however have a deep love for the act of creation, regardless of the medium.

Another popular myth about Michelangelo is the fact that, even at the age of 82, a master of the arts, he was proud to admit that he was still learning.

The process was his reward. The creative journey interested him, far more than reaching the destination.

In our pursuit of success, we often focus mostly on the end result. Ironically, by doing that, we either neglect the journey because we want to get there as fast as possible or we simply obsess on making the end result as perfect as possible.

Either way, we forget to enjoy the journey, and in effect, we lose our desire to even reach the destination.

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6 Books Every Writer Should Read

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Oscar Wilde once said that, “Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”

Writing as an art can’t be taught, and even though Creative Writing courses and workshops undoubtedly help writers grow, writing is a solitary process, and it’s up to each individual to reach within the confines of his mind for answers.

Writers are unique to the extent that even if someone would try to replicate the same career a fellow writer had, he would most likely fail to achieve the same success. A lot of factors come to play in this, including luck, and blindly following a writer’s advice is not the most suitable of actions. What worked for him might not work for you. Instead, you should absorb the rules others have used before you and change them according to your own style and needs.

There are no maps to guide you in this journey. All you get are some folks who are more than happy to help you find your way from time to time.

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How the Art You Consume Determines the Quality of Your Work

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In 2009, during an interview, radio host Ira Glass shared rare insights into what it means to be a creative. The kind of insights that are just at the edge of our mind’s peripheral vision; he managed to pull into focus an often overlooked element about the act of creation.

What drives us to create in the first place is not a desire to play god, but rather our hunger for art.

“Nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish somebody had told this to me — is that all of us who do creative work … we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there’s a gap, that for the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good, OK? It’s not that great. It’s really not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good. But your taste — the thing that got you into the game — your taste is still killer, and your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you, you know what I mean?” — Ira Glass

He later goes on to make his most valuable contribution: the most important thing that you can do as a creative is to produce a huge volume of work until you become good enough to create work of the same quality as the art you consume.

You bridge the gap between the art you produce and the art you admire by producing as much work as possible.

It is true, and this particular insight has become almost myth, being written about over and over again by countless creatives.

Yes, the advice to do more work applies to almost all areas of life, but there’s something that we often take for granted: killer taste is not so easy to develop.

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Is Writing Your Religion or Profession?

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J.D. Salinger once wrote, “Do you know what I was smiling at? You wrote down that you were a writer by profession. It sounded to me like the loveliest euphemism I had ever heard. When was writing ever your profession? It’s never been anything but your religion. Never. I’m a little over-excited now. Since it is your religion, do you know what you will be asked when you die? But let me tell you first what you won’t be asked. You won’t be asked if you were working on a wonderful, moving piece of writing when you died. You won’t be asked if it was long or short, sad or funny, published or unpublished. You won’t be asked if you were in good or bad form while you were working on it. You won’t even be asked if it was the one piece of writing you would have been working on if you had known your time would be up when it was finished.

[…]

I’m so sure you’ll get asked only two questions:

“Were most of your stars out? Were you busy writing your heart out?”

If only you knew how easy it would be for you to say yes to both questions. If only you’d remember before ever you sit down to write that you’ve been a reader long before you were ever a writer. You simply fix that fact in your mind, then sit very still and ask yourself, as a reader, what piece of writing in all the world Buddy Glass would most want to read if he had his heart’s choice. The next step is terrible, but so simple I can hardly believe it as I write it. You just sit down shamelessly and write the thing yourself. I won’t even underline that. It’s too important to be underlined.”

Overall, I believe this is some of the best writing advice ever written. But I’d like to analyze the hell out of this paragraph, and tell you what I think about writing being either a profession or a religion.

First of all, writing is both at the same time. It has to be, if one wishes to be productive.

After all, my writing mantra has been, “Punch the damn keys.”

I say nothing about being inspired, having the time, or the planets being aligned in just the right way. I say nothing about other commitments, or chores, or the fact that you have to go grocery shopping.

I say, punch the damn keys, because, ultimately, that’s what makes you a writer. It’s as simple as that.

Or is it?

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TMM: The Unreal

the unreal

“The unreal is more powerful than the real. Because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it. Because it’s only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. Stone crumbles. Wood rots. People, well, they die. But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on. If you can change the way people think. The way they see themselves. The way they see the world. You can change the way people live their lives. That’s the only lasting thing you can create.” 

Chuck Palahniuk

Life’s all about cause and effect. A man without a cause has no effect on the world. A man without a cause crumbles under the pressure of the mundane. Day in and day out he struggles to find a purpose, a reason, a battle worth fighting. He feels as if wasting time, as if something bigger than himself is always running away, day after day after day.

No man is an island, and a way a man sees himself will affect the way he sees those around him. Those he wants to love. Those he wants to save. Those he wants to protect.

And a man must, at times, be willing to sacrifice who he is in order to do any of those things.

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Dictionary of Unusual Words

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Words and language are at the core of our identity, they allow us to define ourselves, to share our stories, and they are essential to our ability to communicate with others.

This means that there are some words out there that are impossible to translate from one language to another, or describe incredibly particular feelings, objects, or states of mind.

So, without further ado, here’s a collection of some of the most unusual words we use.

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Albert Camus’s Beautiful Letter of Gratitude to His Childhood Teacher After Winning the Nobel Prize

19 November 1957

Dear Monsieur Germain,

I let the commotion around me these days subside a bit before speaking to you from the bottom of my heart. I have just been given far too great an honor, one I neither sought nor solicited. But when I heard the news, my first thought, after my mother, was of you. Without you, without the affectionate hand you extended to the small poor child that I was, without your teaching and example, none of all this would have happened. I don’t make too much of this sort of honor. But at least it gives me the opportunity to tell you what you have been and still are for me, and to assure you that your efforts, your work, and the generous heart you put into it still live in one of your little schoolboys who, despite the years, has never stopped being your grateful pupil. I embrace you with all my heart.

Albert Camus

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Find Your Fire

“if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.”
Charles Bukowski

Passion. Defined as a strong and barely controllable emotion. Fire. Defined as a destructive burning of something. Sounds pretty bad now, doesn’t it? But, if you think about it for a while, creation is a destructive process. Or is it the other way around?

Never mind.

But I do wonder, did you find your passion? Are you sure? Is it the thing that controls you? Make you want to jump out of the bed in the morning? The thing you can’t live without?

You did not?

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TMM: Burning Out

So, how long can you keep this up? The grind.

How long before you burn out?

Well… the thing is, this whole grind thing… it’s only meant to put you in a certain state of mind, which is everything when it comes to doing pretty much anything in life.

And the state of mind that comes with the idea of hard work, of having to fight to get what you want, doesn’t allow you to act all lazy and Netflix and chill your way through life.

But it is more important to work smart.

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Stephen King’s 10 Best Tips for Becoming a Phenomenal Writer

The King has always been the sort of writer who can release one bestseller after another. He has sold more than 350 million copies of his works.

Wouldn’t that be nice? To be able to sell that many books? To be that productive?

Well, in 2002 King temporarily gave up on writing horror novels, and wrote a little book chronicling his rise to fame and discussing exactly what he believes it takes to become a good writer. Since then, it’s become the most popular book about writing ever written, which is understandable.

On Writing is not only about the basics of writing, and something that you should approach as a craft, but also a passion. Other writing books are focused on the mechanics of the written word, while King shows you how to capture the joy of the craft.

Yes, this little book will make you want to write, not for fame or fortune, but because it’s fun, and there’s nothing else you would rather do.

If I could recommend only one book to aspiring writers, On Writing would be it. But don’t take my word for it. Below, I’ve compiled a list of his best advice from the book, and I also wrote down some of my own thoughts on exactly how they apply to aspiring writers.

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