Inspiration

One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away. Stephen Hawking

Everyone must choose one of two pains: The pain of discipline or the pain of regret. –Jim Rohn

There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor. Charles Dickens December 19, 1843: Charles Dickens self-published one of his most enduring works, A Christmas Carol, 171 years ago. He wrote it in just six weeks.

Beauty and ingenuity beat perfection hands down, every time. Nalo Hopkinson The Jamaican-born sci-fi and fantasy writer often draws on her Caribbean heritage in books like Brown Girl in the Ring and The New Moon’s Arms.

I have spread my dreams under your feet.
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. W.B. Yeats Poet W.B. Yeats held a lifelong torch for famed revolutionary Maud Gonne (born December 21, 1866). Though they were close friends and he proposed often, she always turned him down, in part because she thought that his yearning for her made him a better poet.

That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality–your soul, if you will–is as bright and shining as any that has ever been….Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly. George Saunders The big-hearted American writer’s short stories concentrate on the beautiful, the weird, and the profound. He is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” grant.

Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes, when you fall, you fly.
Neil Gaiman

Never give up…No one knows what’s going to happen next.  L. Frank Baum October 9, 1899: L. Frank Baum finished writing his beloved classic, The Wonderful World of Oz. It was originally titled The Emerald City

If you do a good job for others, you heal yourself at the same time, because a dose of joy is a spiritual cure. It transcends all barriers. Ed Sullivan Ed Sullivan (born September 28, 1901) was the host of the influential Ed Sullivan show, which helped popularize acts such as The Beatles. One of Sullivan’s earliest jobs was as a professional boxer.

. . . when it comes down to it, that’s what life is all about: showing up for the people you love, again and again, until you can’t show up anymore. Rebecca Walker The influential journalist introduced the concept of Third Wave Feminism in an article for Ms. magazine when she was just 22 years old. Walker’s mother is Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple.

Do not read as children do to enjoy themselves, or, as the ambitious do to educate themselves. No, read to live.  Gustave Flaubert October 1, 1856: The first installment of Madame Bovary appeared in The Paris Review, 158 years ago today.

Life is too short to be lived badly. Marjane Satrap The graphic novelist created two beautiful, moving books about her childhood and teen years: Persepolis and Persepolis 2. They take their titles from the name for the ancient capital of Persia.

Every life has death and every light has shadow. Be content to stand in the light and let the shadow fall where it will.  Mary Stewart British author Mary Stewart (born September 17, 1916) pioneered the romantic mystery genre and is best known for her series, The Merlin Chronicles.

Not all those who wander are lost.  J.R.R. Tolkien

You are never stronger…than when you land on the other side of despair. Zadie Smith Both of the acclaimed novelist’s younger brothers are also artists. One is a rapper, Luc Skyz, and the other is a rapper, actor, and comedian, Doc Brown.

Do you think that I count the days? There is only one day left, always starting over: it is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk. Jean-Paul Sartre French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre declined the Nobel Prize because he wanted to retain his freedom to speak as an individual, rather than as an institution.

We’re each of us alone, to be sure. What can you do but hold your hand out in the dark? Ursula K. Le Guin The celebrated science fiction and fantasy author considers herself to be both a Taoist and an anarchist

This is where it all begins. Everything starts here, today. David Nicholls July 15th is St. Swithun’s Day in the U.K. According to legend, if it rains on this day, it will also rain for the next 40. British writer David Nicholls chose this day to revisit his characters throughout their lives in his bestselling novel, “One Day”.

To love and win is the best thing.
To love and lose, the next best.  
William Makepeace Thackeray Kolkata-born (July 18, 1811) novelist William Makepeace Thackeray spent most of his life in England and skewered British society with his novel, Vanity Fair.

“Learn the rules, break the rules, make up new rules, break the new rules.”Marvin Bell

Are you breathing, are you lucky enough
to be breathing?  
Hettie Jones October 13, 1958: LeRoi Jones (later Amiri Baraka) and Hettie Cohen got married 56 years ago today. The event would later be chronicled in Cohen’s popular memoir, How I Became Hettie Jones.

Life is just a short walk from the cradle to the grave, and it sure behooves us to be kind to one another along the way.  Alice Childress Alice Childress (born October 12, 1916) started her career as a actress—she was an early member of the American Negro Theater and was nominated for a Tony. She wrote her first play after fellow actors bet that a good play couldn’t be written overnight.

I don’t think a tough question is disrespectfulHelen Thomas A year ago today, July 20th, groundbreaking American journalist Helen Thomas died at age 92. After a long career covering every president from Eisenhower to Obama, she resigned at age 89, after her comments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict caused controversy.

Some things you know all your life. They are so simple and true they must be said without elegance, meter and rhyme…they must be naked and alone, they must stand for themselves. Philip Levine The former Poet Laureate of the United States started out with factory jobs at Cadillac and Chevrolet, then went on to write poetry about working-class Detroit.

If death is this brilliant slide, this high, fine music felt as pure vibration, this plunging float in wind and silence, it’s not so bad. Jayne Anne Phillips The writer and professor is best known for her fourth novel, “Lark and Termite”.

The more the heart is nourished with happiness, the more it is insatiable. Gabrielle Roy French Canadian author Gabrielle Roy (died July 13, 1983) is credited with inspiring Quebec’s Quiet Revolution with the publication of her debut novel, Bonheur d’occasion (in English, The Tine Flute).

It is the absence of facts that frightens people: the gap you open, into which they pour their fears, fantasies, desires. Hilary Mantel The author of Wolf Hall and Bringing Up the Bodies, two books in a trilogy based on the life of Thomas Cromwell, announced upon winning the Man Booker that she would be using the prize money on “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.”

life

And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry In the beloved French novella The Little Prince, a pilot who has crashed in the desert encounters a young prince visiting Earth from his home asteroid. The premise was inspired by author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s (born June 29, 1900) own desert crash. After three days without water, he was saved by a passing Bedouin.

Many people lose the small joys in the hope for the big happiness. Pearl S. Buck  Novelist Pearl S. Buck (born June 26, 1892), author of The Good Earth, was raised in China by her missionary parents and spent most of her first 40 years there. Fluent in the language of her adopted country, she says classical Chinese novels like “Dream of the Red Chamber” shaped her understanding of storytelling.

Everything you ever wanted is on the other side of fear. – George Addair

You can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability. – Brené Brown

Greatness lives on the edge of destruction – Will Smith

Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. – August Wilson

life2

What are you going to do? Everything, is my guess. It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications. Nora Ephron Wit and honesty marked the work of Nora Ephron (born May 19, 1941), who wrote screenplays like When Harry Met Sally… as well as novels and essays. When she was married to reporter Carl Bernstein, she correctly guessed the identity of Deep Throat, the source for the Watergate scandal.

The surest defense against Evil is extreme individualism, originality of thinking, whimsicality, even—if you will—eccentricity. Joseph Brodsky Former U.S. Poet Laureate Joseph Brodsky (born May 24, 1940), was persecuted in his native Russia and was forcibly exiled in 1972. With the support of poet W.H. Auden he eventually settled in the U.S. and later won a Nobel Prize.

 

Today a reader, tomorrow a leader. Margaret Fuller Journalist and women’s rights activist Margaret Fuller (born May 23, 1810) was the first woman to be allowed the use of Harvard’s Library. It was granted because she’d earned a reputation as the most well-read person in New England.

 

All my days I have longed equally to travel the right road and to take my own errant path.Sigrid Undset Norwegian novelist Sigrid Undset (born May 20, 1882) won the Nobel Prize for her historical novels set in Norway during the Middle Ages.

 

It is a great thing to start life with a small number of really good books which are your very own. Arthur Conan Doyle Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (born May 22, 1859) created the observant and skeptical Sherlock Holmes, but later in life Doyle became interested in the supernatural. He had a falling out with Harry Houdini when he refused to believe that the magician’s illusions were not real.

life3

Life, for people, begins to crumble on the edges; they don’t realize it. Dorothea Lange Dorothea Lange (born May 26, 1895) knew that she wanted to be a photographer before she even picked up a camera. She is best known for her work during the Great Depression, documenting the difficulties of migrant laborers.

 

Some nights the sky wept stars that quickly floated and disappeared into the darkness before our wishes could meet them. Ishmael Beah November 23, 1980: Happy 33rd birthday, Ishmael Beah! His memoir, A Long Way Gone, tells of his boyhood as a child soldier in Sierra Leone. He is now at work on a novel, due out next year, that explores the aftermath of civil war.

 

Never forget, Caelius, that a great man makes his luck. Luck is there for everyone to seize. Most of us miss our chances; we’re blind to our luck. He never misses a chance because he’s never blind to the opportunity of the moment. Colleen McCullough While teaching in the Neurology department at Yale Medical School, she wrote her second book, The Thorn Birds. It became a best-seller and was made into a popular TV mini-series.

 

Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood. George Orwell June 8, 1949: George Orwell’s dystopian classic, Nineteen Eight-Four, was published 65 years ago today. The popularity of the book led to our adoption of the term “Big Brother” as shorthand for a surveillance state.

 

Remain true to yourself, child. If you know your own heart, you will always have one friend who does not lie. Marion Zimmer Bradley Best known for The Mists of Avalon, a Camelot retelling, Marion Zimmer Bradley (born June 3, 1930) also wrote LGBT pulp fiction as well as several fantasy series, including the popular Darkover series. She began her writing career by publishing fanzines as a teenager.

 

So many things are possible just as long as you don’t know they’re impossible. Norton Juster The author and architect met his neighbor, Jules Feiffer, when he was taking out the trash. That serendipitous meeting led to The Phantom Tollbooth, with Juster’s story and Feiffer’s drawings.

 

Never say ‘no’ to adventures. Always say ‘yes,’ otherwise you’ll lead a very dull life. Ian Fleming Ian Fleming (born May 28, 1908) may have achieved everlasting fame as the creator of the dapper James Bond, but he was also the author of a popular children’s book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

 

God save us from people who mean well. Vikram Seth The writer was in his thirties when he moved back into his childhood bedroom in Kolkata to work on his second book, A Suitable Boy. At 1349 pages, it is an epic look at 1950s India.

 

The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear. Aung San Suu Kyi The Myanmar opposition leader was under frequent house arrest over the past three decades, but remained a potent political figure. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and plans to run for president in her country’s 2015 elections.

 

You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.  Amy Bloom After selling her first novel, in her mid thirties, Bloom decided to buy it back because she thought that it wasn’t good enough. Instead, her first publication was a short story collection, Come to Me, that was shortlisted for a National Book Award.

 

It is true that those we meet can change us, sometimes so profoundly that we are not the same afterwards, even unto our names. Yann Martel The novelist initially considered other animals—including an elephant and a rhinoceros—to place in the lifeboat with a young Indian boy, but finally settled on a tiger and began writing his Man Booker Prize-winning novel Life of Pi.

 

The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.  Anna QuindleThe Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist also writes novels, including One True Thing, Black and Blue, and Blessings.

 

Cynicism is what passes for insight among the mediocre.  Joe Klein July 17, 1996: Journalist Joe Klein admitted that he was the anonymous author of Primary Colors, a roman à clef about Clinton’s first presidential campaign.

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