Posts Tagged ‘Originality’

“[Chekhov] has put his finger on a problem that often affects writers and just as frequently stands in the way of clarity: the belief that every noun needs an adjective, that every sentence must be elaborate, that every turn of phrase must be lyrical, poetic, and above all original, and that it represents some sort of shameful failure of the imagination to use language in a way that can be readily understood by all.”

–Francine Prose, “It’s Harder Than It Looks to Write Clearly” on Lithub


“At bottom, however, we are all collective beings, pose however we please. For how little we have and how little we are that we can, in the strictest sense, call our own! We must all receive and learn as well from those who were before us as from those who are with us. Even the greatest genius would not get far if he wished to owe everything to what he had within him. but very many worthy men do not understand this and, with their dreams of originality, grope half their lives in the dark. I have known artists who boasted of having no master, rather of owing everything to their own genius. The fools! As if that happened anywhere! And as if the world were not pressing on them at every step and, in spite of their stupidity, making something out of them.”

–J.W. Goethe

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Quoted in The Heretic’s Handbook of Quotations

Front cover of "The Heretic's Handbook of Quotations