Creative Process

5 Quotations That Help Me Create Better Things

By October 14, 2015 19 Comments
Stella Gibson

Stella Gibson, spirit animal material.

I’ve been cataloguing interesting quotations I find on the Internet. These quotations help me create better stories, comics, or simply help me through creatively challenging times. Most of the quotations are about writing, art, and personal development, while others are snippets of TV reviews, and interviews with rad personalities.

Here are the best five gems I’ve saved over the past month, and hopefully you get something out of them that’s not just an acute awareness of my browsing history:

1. Kate Beaton, artist and creator of Hark! A Vagrant, on finding inspiration and always working your creative brain:

For Beaton, that means potential inspiration is everywhere—but also that she never really gets a break from working. “Even when I’m watching something just to enjoy it, I find, ‘Oh, this could be handy,’” she says. “When something like this becomes your job, it’s your job all the time. My mind is always on work, so you never know where the inspiration is going to come from.”

This makes a lot of sense. If you’re the creator of something, be it a novel or comic strip or Cthulhu-inspired doom metal concept record, inspiration often comes from unexpected sources. This means that you should always have your eyes peeled and ears pressed to the door in case inspiration comes knocking.

For me, the creative process has always required a lot of digging in my brain and pulling out random things I’ve seen, heard, or felt, and stringing them together into something new. Even when I try to enjoy a film or anything with a narrative pulse purely for entertainment’s sake, I am still cataloguing things that may be of use to me later.

It’s good to read Kate’s quotation, because it reconfirms that what I’ve been doing is not so much a strange personal quirk as it is a necessity when you are or want to be the creator of something.

2. Gillian Anderson on why her character, Police Superintendent Stella Gibson from The Fall, is interesting:

“I mean I think that that was definitely an aspect of what I found appealing about her. There’s a degree of self-confidence and shamelessness,” she said. “She behaves how she wants to behave and she doesn’t—she’s not interested in, or wouldn’t do it to hurt anybody, but is taking care of her own needs and kind of shameless about that. That was part of my curiosity about her and an interesting dynamic that certainly people have picked up on. And it’s generated a lot of conversation. The biggest aspect of that conversation is why is it so unusual?”

Gillian Anderson’s sense of self has always intrigued me. She did an interview once where she addressed how she handled people who kept telling her to smile, even when it wasn’t her natural inclination to smile. The takeaway was that we don’t need to change ourselves in order to fit a certain standard set by someone else.

I wish someone had told me this back when I was growing up and continuously told by classmates and teachers alike to stop giving people The Death Stare when that was really just, well, my face.

3. Jason Fieber, a dividend investor and blogger, on doing what you need to do today (and not tomorrow):

But had I never started in the first place, that five years still would have gone by. It’d still be 2015. And I’d still be worth less than a baby. Time waits for no one. So make sure you’re always thinking of the you in five, ten, or 20 years. Because that version of you will eventually arrive. And you want to make sure that version is a lot better than the version of you that currently exists.

While the context here is around personal investing, I think Jason’s comments can also apply to pursuing any kind of dream. The time will always pass, so we should spend it doing the things that fulfill us and make us happy.

4. David Hawkins, author of Power vs. Force, on the difference between treating a problem and healing from it:

The difference between treating and healing is that in the former, the context remains the same, whereas in the latter, the clinical response is elicited by a change of context so as to bring about an absolute removal of the cause of the condition rather than mere recovery from its symptoms.

This hit home for me. When we encounter problems, we’re often just seeing the tip of the iceberg. In other words, we’re only experiencing the symptoms of the larger problem. It makes more sense to tackle the root of the pain than to put a band-aid on the surface cuts and hope you never encounter the problem again.

So if I’m experiencing writer’s block or experiencing perfectionistic urges, then it’s not my numbing brain or the story that’s the problem—maybe it’s my environment or my core psychology. Once I change the fundamentals or learn to manage them better, then the superficial problems also disappear.

5. Doc Hammer, co-creator of The Venture Bros and multi-talented artist, writer, voice actor, and musician, on how he would like to be remembered:

 I have been painting far longer and it is strong—it is as strong as the The Venture Bros. but it is not The Venture Bros. It doesn’t even appeal to the same people. Same thing with the band—I want people to find the band and then as a footnote learn about me. But selling Weep to Venture fans is like owning a tobacco and chocolate store. If someone comes in for some chocolate you tell them, “And you are going to want a cigarette.” They are two fine things—and yes, I am saying that a cigarette is a fine thing—but they are not for the same thing. I do art in three different ways. In my heart of hearts, in my most egocentric moments, I think hopefully people will sort this out and say, “He’s just a fucking artist.”

I have a lot of admiration for people like Doc Hammer, a.k.a. people who aren’t willing to compromise one talent for another. This was a major weakness of mine. When I was in high school, I was enrolled in an arts program where you could only select one major. I selected Visual Arts, but I loved writing. I also played instruments and played in a band. However, my academic concentration was Business, so wasn’t that supposed to be my core focus?

Long story short, there was a constant identity crisis and struggle to define who I was in the context of what I was interested in.

Then I read this quotation from Doc Hammer, and threw caution to the wind. If you’re good at or interested in more than one thing, then pursue all of ‘em and try your hardest to create a lasting impact.

Millie’s Note: 
What’s your favourite quotation?

Join the discussion 19 Comments

  • I do like the first one. But they are all good and all have lessons within them.

    But yeah, with the first one, even just wandering around things just jump out, demanding to be saved for later use.

    Or current use, if you’ve got a handy notepad.

  • kvennarad says:

    I love 4.

    I have so many favourite quotations, but then I give myself a poke and tell myself to go back and put them in context, get the person’s whole message. Like for example, Emma Goldman’s, “I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody’s right to beautiful, radiant things.” That ‘right to beautiful, radiant things’ rings like a bell in my head, all the time.

    However, my current verbal mindworm is from Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Kill Bill vol.1’, and is “Revenge is never a straight line.”

    I think I am looking to give radiance in what I write. It’s a good thing. I prefer radiance to beauty. The crookedness of the line of revenge reminds me of plotting and the danger of too much linearity, too much slavish cause-and-effect, too much end-driven narrative.

    • Millie Ho says:

      Good mindworm! I prefer radiance to beauty as well. Not all narratives need to be tied together with a bow on top, all prim and proper and processed to perfection.

      Tarantino’s films, especially his earlier films, were magical because of the many unexpected turn of events. For example, we know that Melanie (Bridget Fonda) in “Jackie Brown” was getting on Louis’ (De Niro) nerves, but the way Louis killed her was so unexpected and still a really vivid memory in my mind. This reminds me of what we’d spoken about some time ago about good endings being surprising but inevitable.

  • aetherhouse says:

    I think the first one is my favorite. Writers can learn from more than just reading. You and I are both movie buffs, which I love, but some writers are so snobby about film, like it’s a “lesser art” or something. Like you can’t learn something about storytelling from a medium that isn’t text-based. Hogwash! Even video games have lessons to offer on character, narrative, style, etc. I try to take home something from everything I watch or play, even if it’s just for popcorn fun. If I’m being entertained, what is entertaining me? How can I recreate that in my own work?

    • Millie Ho says:

      You’re absolutely right! As long as there’s a narrative, there’s something for us to study and absorb, regardless of what form it takes. Heck, sometimes I get inspired by really punchy commercials. I think this constant churning and absorption of new ideas is what’s responsible for those flashes of inspiration. We’re not generating things out of thin air: there needs to be something there first for inspiration to spark.

  • Hi Millie, What a great collection of quotes. I love Kate Beaton–my kids introduced me to Hark! A Vagrant, and she always nails it. I also try to be open to the world all the time, and I watch and listen for the stories all around me, big events and little incidents, interesting visuals, or questions raised. I bookmark these moments with photographs, and eventually share them as a blog story or eventually they might make it into a manuscript. Thanks for a thoughtful and thought-provoking post!

    • Millie Ho says:

      I think the beauty of photography is how efficiently it communicates a subject, a narrative, and an emotion (or many) all in one fell swoop. As writers, we try to create a mental image in the reader’s mind, and this is how photography naturally communicates. It’s clear from your posts that you capture a lot of interesting and serendipitous moments, and your work constantly reminds me to get outside and experience new things. Thanks for broadening my horizons, Naomi!

      • Dear Millie,
        What a perfect analysis and description of the visual connection between words and images. Thank you for clarifying the process so eloquently–I tend to do everything by instinct, but understanding the process–the how and why of it–often creates shortcuts for getting from A to B, even in a creative process. It is always a pleasure to visit your blog!

  • “The biggest aspect of that conversation is why is it so unusual?” – Such a great, provocative point.

  • jmsabbagh says:

    Exceptional quotations.Life changing thoughts.Regards.

  • The potential for inspiration truly is everywhere…although I tend to find it through Google. 🙂

  • Good list. I like the first one the best.

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