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Quotes on Experimenting, Writing, Art and Life

Some quotes on experimenting as a contribution to this month’s theme.

Life is ‘trying things to see if they work’ (Ray Bradbury)

Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment.(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others. (Martha Graham)

Only those who attempt the absurd will achieve the impossible (M C Escher)

The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark. (Agnes de Mille)

It is important to do what you don’t know how to do. It is important to see your skills as keeping you from learning what is deepest and most mysterious. If you know how to focus, unfocus. If your tendency is to make sense out of chaos, start chaos. (Carlos Castaneda)

I am my own experiment.  I am my own work of art. (Madonna)

Do you have a favourite amongst them?  Which one best captures the mood of ‘experimenting’ for you?

Oh and please do chip in with more great quotes on experiments if you’ve got some you’d like to share.

Hat tip to Heroes Not Zombies for the Martha Graham quote

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  1. Nick Cernis says:

    I’ve always found comfort in the words of Ray Bradbury, and have long shared his view that experimenting in life and leisure should be based on the “jump first, plan later” philosophy. He also said:

    “If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business, because we’d be cynical. Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.”

    (I’d only add to this that most would probably never have children, either! Some decisions really are better made with the heart.)

    I’d not heard the Carlos Castaneda quote, but think there’s a lot of truth in it; there really is value in stretching your talents and learning new things for the sake of creation and experimenting. On similar lines, one of my favourite quotes of all time comes from Carl Sagan, who said:

    “If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.”

    Sometimes — just as Einstein knew — experimenting means tearing down barriers and constraints and starting with nothing, however absurd it may seem to backpedal at first. I think this is just as true in physics, writing, and art as it is in life in general.

    Thanks for the inspiration, Joanna!

    Nick Cerniss last blog post..Deliver Us From Workplace Woodchip

  2. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Nick, those are great additions, thank you. I like the idea of building your wings on the way down. And I think it’s just as well mother nature creates so many accidents, because if it was left to individuals to ‘decide’ to have babies the human race would have long since died out :-)

    The apple pie quote is great - a simple way to remind us of the ridiculous magnificence of the universe that we take so much for granted too.

  3. Jim Murdoch says:

    There are several that appeal but they all contain the same message for me: What’s the point in doing what you know you can do? I know I can write - that is not in doubt - but everything I work on is an experiment, some safer than other it has to be said, but I never know for sure that I’m going to finish anything so I’m not cock-sure about my ability to write. It’s why I never really wanted to write a sequel to that first novel. I’d been there and done that.

    Jim Murdochs last blog post..All writers are Martians

  4. Brad Shorr says:

    Joanna, Every one of these marvelous quotes was unfamiliar to me. I especially love Escher’s quote, and is certainly descriptive of his own work, which, by the way, contains a large element of fun. Sometimes the line between the sublime and ridiculous disappears. For me, attempting to erase the line is where the joy is!

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..The Chicago Manual of Style - A Must for Writers

  5. Robert Hruzek says:

    Well, one I’ve run across fairly recently is this one from Peter Benchley (Jaws):

    “It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.”

    It speaks to me about “getting out there”, even though we may not be all that sure anyone wants to read what we write. Just start writing and see what happens.

    Which, come to think of is, is exactly how I started writing!

    Robert Hruzeks last blog post..Why I Hate Cell Phones

  6. William Waites says:

    “Come to the edge, he said. They said: We are afraid. Come to the edge, he said. They came. He pushed them and they flew.” - Apollinaire

  7. Robyn McMaster says:

    I like the way Maya Angelou gets down to basics:

    “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” ~ Maya Angelou

    Robyn McMasters last blog post..Experiencing Electronic Overload?

  8. Emily Carmichael says:

    oh my, i could be at this all day… unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately?) many of my favourite quotes are written down at home and i can’t find them readily online.

    “Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there. It doesn’t matter what you do … so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”—Ray Bradbury

    “Stuff your eyes with wonder … live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal. And if there were, it would be related to the great sloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away. To hell with that … shake the tree and knock the great sloth down on his ass.”—Ray Bradbury

    ‘”There is no use trying,” said Alice; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
    ” I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”’
    —Lewis Carroll

    “When art is properly understood we will be able to paint pictures to cure toothache.” -Pablo Picasso

  9. Ellen Weber says:

    Thanks Joanna - what a cool prompt into thought for the day!

    When Einstein stated that “reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one,” he opened a new segue for the brain to cultivate perseverance.

    Ellen Webers last blog post..Expand or Stump Creativity at Work?

  10. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Jim, for so many of us the point of doing what we know what we can do is to stay in our comfort zones. Getting out beyond them is not always easy due to the number of limiting beliefs we carry around - but when we do, like you say, things become a lot more fun, interesting, and creative

    Brad, what a great way to think about the work that you do! I think you’ve hit a nail on the head there

    Robert, thanks for sharing that quote, I love it! And for the affirmation of this most important point:

    ‘It speaks to me about “getting out there”, even though we may not be all that sure anyone wants to read what we write. Just start writing and see what happens.’


  11. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    William, hello, and thanks for sharing that quote. It’s a great match for this one that Nick Cernis shared earlier:

    “You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down”

    Robyn, that Maya Angelou quote is one of my favourites. It’s a good one to talk yourself out of a negative frame of mind.

  12. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Emily, you are such a treasure, thank you for sharing these quotes.

    The Ray Bradbury quotes are just immense, esp the first one - well, maybe it’s resonating with me just now. Anyway, hairs are going up on my arms, and my eyes are stinging with tears as I read it. Thank you. Do you know where the quotes are from?


  13. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Ellen, that is a most intriguing thought! Thanks for sharing it

  14. Karen Swim
    Twitter: karenswim

    Joanna, these quotes so eloquently speak to the fear that keeps us from experimenting and the joy that comes from letting go,giving in and allowing ourselves the freedom to test, try and fail. I love the Ray Bradbury quote for its simplicity, and the Martha Graham quote made my heart surge from the power captured in those words. The Escher quote however, inspires me the most today and challenges me in my notion of what is possible. Incredible post Joanna! I am enjoying this month of experimenting!

    Karen Swims last blog post..What you Talking ‘bout Willis?

  15. --Deb says:

    Not experimenting, per se, but one of my favorites for when you’ve tried and tried and are just TIRED?

    “Ah, but a man can sleep any time, but a laugh restores the soul.” -Anne McCaffrey

    Because, sometimes, nothing is so rejuvenating in the face of long odds as a good, hearty, belly laugh!

    -Debs last blog post..MM: Six Degrees of Separation

  16. Emily Carmichael says:

    Joanna, i’m glad you love the Bradbury quotes as much as i do. i’m an avid quote collector — have been since high school — and may add many more to this post after i get home and can look at my stash!

    both quotes are from Fahrenheit 451, which is the kind of book that will take the top of your head off. if you haven’t read if before i strongly recommend it. it’s not a happy-go-feel-good book, but it is the kind that really challenges us to question the status quo, which is something i think we don’t do nearly enough of.

    another favourite for you:

    “Life is to be lived. If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well better find some way that is going to be interesting. And you don’t do that by sitting around.” ~Katharine Hepburn

  17. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Karen, watching you stretch and grow with your own writing experiment this month has been a wonderful thing. I’m glad the quotes spoke so powerfully to you.

    -Deb, that’s a great addition, thank you. I also know just the person who could do with hearing it (as well as me!)

    Emily, thanks for the follow up, I appreciate it. I read bits of Fahrenheit as a set text at school but have never read it since with adult eyes. Must rectify that now. Thanks for the encouragement and the quotes. They have made my day.

  18. Bo says:

    I love the Bradbury quotes, and all the lovely sentiments expressed in the variety here.

    Sometimes I go for the straight and direct though, because I can’t easily ignore it’s directness. Such as:

    You must break out of your current comfort zone and become comfortable with the unfamiliar and the unknown. Denis Waitley

    Bos last blog post..Anything for a Distraction

  19. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Bo, you know me, I like straight to the point language too

    That quote you shared is great, and it’s true - the more we become comfortable with the unknown the less scary it becomes… till it becomes a comfort zone again of course, and time for another stretch…

  20. Vern says:

    Big fan of Bradbury, myself. His book, Dandelion Wine, still rates as one of my favorite novels and has held up over a plethora of re-readings. Here’s a quote I like, though it’s not by Bradbury, but instead, Robert Cooper: “Either we risk or we don’t. Either we change or we don’t. There’s no acceptable middle ground because it lulls us into complacency. Lasting changes rarely occur when we ease ourselves into the future. The come when we leap. The leaps themselves can be small or large. Once we take action, we see things differently and for many of us, there’s no going back. Joanna, thanks for a great post!

  21. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Vern, thanks. I’m now wondering why I’ve not read his stuff until this advanced stage in my life… still it’s never too late, and they’re going on my wish list now, Dandelion Wine included.

    Thank you too for the quote you shared. Even the first sentence on its own sends shivers down my spine. Must be a signal from the unconcious to go for it!

  22. wilson says:

    Well, Joanna. I loved your quotes here, and I also have a quote here as well, “Peace is her glory, war is his misery!”…

    wilsons last blog post..Slimming Down Your Body With Healthy Ways!

  23. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Wilson, thank you for the reminder to walk peacefully in this world.

  24. Ariane says:

    Joanna - what an AWESOME post! I love all the quotes…especially:

    You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. (Martha Graham)

    and the

    Arianes last blog post..25 Ways I Save Money - 2008

  25. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Ariane, I had so much fun with this post - not least all the extra quotes that people came along and shared. Sometimes it’s hard to live without satisfaction… but then again wouldn’t we be bored if we didn’t keep that channel open..? :-)

  26. Ariane says:

    LOL I suppose it would be boring. But I’m genetically programmed that way so I have to learn to appreciate it and relish the moments of connecting with people like you who really “get it!” {{{{hugz}}}}

    Arianes last blog post..25 Ways I Save Money - 2008

  27. William says:

    I see two elements to Martha Graham’s quote. First is the obvious urge to try new things. Second, is the reassurance that the feeling of dissatisfaction or unfinished business at the conclusion of a project is both natural and motivating. Rage on!

  28. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    William, what a thoughtful reflection. I particularly liked this point

    “the reassurance that the feeling of dissatisfaction or unfinished business at the conclusion of a project is both natural and motivating”

    Thank you

  29. Christopher Trottier says:

    Interesting quote from Carlos Castaneda, because I would describe his dances as a means of trying to make sense out of chaos.

    Christopher Trottiers last blog post..Carlos Castenada’s Magical Dances

  30. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Hi Christopher, the way I read the quote it’s a challenge to do what we don’t normally do. Most of us try and make sense… maybe his normal pattern is to make chaos?

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