quotes

couple on bench

Thinking Thankfully

With the arrival of November and what I might call the start of the holiday season, I’ve been thinking about thankfulness and what it means to be grateful. As much as it annoys me that I’m about to quote Oprah Winfrey, I stumbled across this quote this morning and it’s stayed with me:

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.

Some people are easily contented, and others are constantly thinking about what’s next regardless of what they have at the time. I’m part of the latter group. It’s either called ambition or the formula for a miserable life, but as I get older I’m making more of an effort to be appreciative of what I have and where I am. Sometimes those “what’s next” hopes and dreams are fuel, and sometimes they get in the way of happiness.

clock time hours minutes

Those Few Great Moments

The Hours is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I liked it so much, in fact, I read nearly the entire thing again. At times I would start to cry without recognizing my reaction right away, as if the story was in more control of my emotion than I was. It was definitely a book for me, because like most people, I’ve always tried to figure out what it is about life that makes people happy, what makes people persevere or strive, and why some people can never seem to find any satisfaction or contentment. Michael Cunningham condenses the life’s source of happiness (or pleasure, or contentment, or whatever you want to call it), in a way that’s neither too bleak to handle nor too optimistic to allow yourself to believe it:

We throw our parties; we abandon our families to live alone in Canada; we struggle to write books that change the world, despite our gifts and our unstinting efforts, our most extravagant hopes. We live our lives, do whatever we do, and then we sleep–it’s as simple and ordinary as that. A few jump out of windows or drown themselves or take pills; more die by accident; and most of us, the vast majority, are slowly devoured by some disease or, if we’re very fortunate, by time itself. There’s just this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we ever imagined, though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) knows these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult. Still, we cherish the city, the morning; we hope, more than anything, for more.

When thinking of my own life, there are memories that jump out at me–moments of complete happiness that I’m grateful I got to have. They belong to me, they are exclusive to me, and I will have them as long as I’m capable of remembering. Of course, I want more. I would risk spoiling one of these moments to try re-creating it, or topping it. With this, my destructive nature in mind, I want to honor those moments the best I can and dwell in them a little longer. It has given me a prompt for at least three creative non-fiction essays I should have already written.

Motivation! (Can I Get That In Writing?)

With my current set of goals, I’m feeling stuck in a rut. Sometimes a solid quote and a deep breath can elevate the world of crap circling my brain; probably because something so simple can be so refreshing. We’ll see when I re-read these tomorrow…

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
-Arthur Ashe, Champion Tennis Player

The secret of getting ahead is getting started.
-Mark Twain, American Author

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.
-Chuck Swindoll, Evangelist

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.
-C.S. Lewis, Apologist Writer

A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.
-Ayn Rand, Novelist

10 Lovely Love Quotes from Better Writers

For (Valentine’s Day, Eight-Year-Three-Month-and-One-Day Anniversary, early President’s Day and belated Chinese New Year) Lovers:

Looking back, I have this to regret, that too often when I loved, I did not say so.
-Ray Stannard Baker, American journalist & reformist

Love is always being given where it is not required.
-E.M. Forster, author of A Passage to India and A Room with a View

Love is space and time measured by the heart.
-Marcel Proust, revered French novelist

Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives.
-C.S. Lewis, Christian writer & philosopher

We waste time looking for the perfect lover instead of creating the perfect love.
-Tom Robbins, best-selling American author

The way to love anything is to realize that it may be lost.
Gilbert K. Chesterton, 20th century English writer

Doubt thou the stars are fire, Doubt that the sun doth move, Doubt truth to be a liar, But never doubt I love.
-From William Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Love is when he gives you a piece of your soul, that you never knew was missing.
-Torquato Tasso, 16th century Italian poet

Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.
-Robert A. Heinlein, American Sci-Fi author

Love conquers all.
-Virgil, ancient Roman poet

Goodness Over Greatness

Goodness: Much easier said than done

“Goodness is about character–integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people.”
-Dennis Prager

“Goodness is the only investment that never fails.”
Henry David Thoreau

“Human nature is evil, and goodness is caused by intentional activity.”
-Xun Zi

“You have a good many little gifts and virtues, but there is no need of parading them, for conceit spoils the finest genius. There is not much danger that real talent or goodness will be overlooked long, and the great charm of all power is modesty.”
-Louisa May Alcott

Greatness: Journey or destination?

“There is no greatness where there is no simplicity, goodness and truth.”
-Leo Tolstoy

“The essence of greatness is neglect of the self.”
-James Anthony Froude

“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world–that is the myth of the atomic age–as being able to remake ourselves.”
-Mahatma Ghandi

“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.”
-Bob Marley

“The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is.”
-Phillips Brooks

“It is not the greatness of a man’s means that makes him independent, so much as the smallness of what he wants.”
-William Cobbett

From Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”

Cursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God in pity made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of your’s, more horrid from its very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him, but I am solitary and detested.

I’m curious and fascinated by the concept of rejecting something you yourself created (sort of how I feel about The Girl: As Observed from Inside the Refrigerator ). Shelley was only 18 when she started writing her famous novel and considered this concept.

Another great self-contained quote:

“Beware; for I am fearless and therefore powerful.”

Happy Birthday Colette

“Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.”

Sidonie Gabrielle Colette (1/28/1873 – 8/3/1974), better known as simply Colette, led a controversial, successful and fascinating life in her native France. She danced through the Moulin Rouge in the Belle Epoque, aided Jews during the German occupation of France during World War II, and later in life became an officer in the French Legion of Honour.

At twenty years old, she married Henry Gauthier-Villars, a roguish figure who encouraged her to write under his pen name, Willy. Colette wrote a series of short novels from the perspective of a teenage girl, Claudine, growing up and being a woman in France. Each of the four popular books in the Claudine series were published every year from 1900-1903. With a taste for literary success, Colette divorced Willy in both marriage and publication. In her not-so-private personal life, Colette had a famous affair with Mathilde de Mornyk, or Missy, with whom she performed in the Moulin Rouge. In 1913 she had a daughter, also named Colette, and she married twice more in her lifetime.

Over the course of her career Colette wrote 50 published novels with collections of her letters and essays published posthumously. Her 1920 novel Chéri contained details of a somewhat autobiographical nature and exploited gender roles. Chéri was adapted for film in 1950 (French) and 2009 (English), and has played in a variety of incarnations on stage. Her 1945 novel Gigi translated well to the stage in its 1951 debut as a Broadway musical. In her international casting search for the perfect Gigi, Colette famously discovered Audrey Hepburn in a Monte Carlo hotel lobby. Gigi was also a successful Hollywood musical in 1958, starring Leslie Caron and Maurice Chevalier and directed by Vincente Minnelli.

“What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.”

In Honor of Carole Lombard

On January 16th, 1942, the lovely Carole Lombard was taken far too soon in a tragic plane crash just outside of Las Vegas. The news shook an America that was ankle-deep in World War II. Lombard was on her way home to husband Clark Gable after touring the Midwest to sell war bonds when her plane crashed into a mountain near an airport refueling station.

Lombard was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana on October 8th, 1908. Her family relocated to the west coast after her parents divorced. Her Hollywood career began at just 12 years old, when she was spotted by a film director while playing baseball outdoors. She started out in silent films, making a successful transition to talkies in 1929. In 1931, she starred in Man of the World with William Powell, a star with whom she had a brief first marriage. Even if her relationship didn’t last, her career took off as she starred in several screwball comedies of the 1930’s, earning her a reputation as the first great screen comedienne. She maintained a relationship with superstar Clark Gable, and the two wed in 1939.

According to Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen, Gable had been carrying on with his young co-star Lana Turner. Lombarde, who was supporting a war bond rally in her native Indiana, was eager to return home to reconnect with her philandering husband. In her haste, she refused a safe train ticket in favor of a seat on a commercial airplane. The book describes her insistence, stating that she refused to budge when asked to give up her seat to military travelers during a fuel stop in Albuquerque. The rest is tragic history. Gable was beside himself, and the whole country mourned the loss of the patriotic actress.

“I love everything I do. I’m immensely interested in and enthusiastic in everything I do, everything. No matter what it is I’m doing, no matter how trivial, it isn’t trivial to me. I give it all I got and love it. I love living. I love life. Eating, sleeping, waking up again, skeet-shooting, sitting around an old barn doing nothing, my work, taking a bath, talking my ears off, the little things, the big things, the simplest things, the most complicated things—I get a kick out of everything I do while I’m doing it.”

Lombard was a really wonderful woman. Read her full interview here.

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15th, 1929, and would have been celebrating his 86th birthday this year. King’s work as a civil rights activist, a nonviolent demonstrator and a brilliant speaker have cemented his name in American history–few historical figures are venerated so to have a national holiday declared in their honor. Beyond King’s work as an activist, he has contributed many meaningful texts as a writer. He is synonymous with “having a dream,” but there are many other gems in his repertoire.

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?'”

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

“If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.”

“Means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek.”

Life Quotes: The Big Picture

“We should all start to live before we get too old.” -Marilyn Monroe

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” -Confucius

“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.” -Soren Kierkegaard

“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” -John Lennon

“Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.” -Charlie Chaplin

P.S.

“What is it about a well written quote that transcends all of my understanding?” -AshLeigh Brown

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen

Jane Austen (1775 – 1878) is a writer who needs no introduction. It may be surprising to some to learn that the woman only wrote six full length novels in her lifetime (in addition to shorter fiction). Austen’s novels transport the reader to another time completely. In her world, parents would labor to find an eligible bachelor with money and social status to marry their daughters off to. Quite a contrast from today’s parents, who may toil finding the perfect college or condo so their daughters can start their lives. Regardless, Austen’s writing is clever, honest, original, and truly withstands the test of time in spite of the fact that she wasn’t famous during her lifetime. The current Jane Austen fan base is a die hard bunch, and I’m sure the author would have been pleased to know that her words continue to delight new generations of female readers.

Austen certainly has a way with words…

“We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.”

“I do not want people to be agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.”

“Where so many hours have been spent in convincing myself that I am right, is there not some reason to fear I may be wrong?”

“Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.”

“An artist cannot do anything slovenly.”

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

Happy Birthday, Grace Kelly

I wish I knew more about this woman. I’ve decided that a Grace Kelly biography is on my list of holiday-break-reading. Such a classic beauty, in a Euro-American way, and a role model for women young and old. I searched Google for some time and couldn’t find any candid images that revealed a woman other than the stylish, smiling icon I’m familiar with. She is so well known, in fact, it’s hard to believe she made fewer than a dozen films. I like to imagine her real personality a likeness of her character Lisa in Rear Window: Glamorous, sophisticated, independent, and maybe a teeny bit haughty.

I’m not sure why, but I’ve been very in tune with my inner feminist lately, so I was pleased to find such an appropriate quote from the actress turned royal:

“I am basically a feminist. I think that women can do anything they decide to do.”

Grace Kelly, 12 November 1929 – 14 September 1982

Don’t Call Me Sugar

Over the weekend, I worked on a creative non-fiction essay. I wanted to write a series of personal experiences, each headlined with a Scarlett O’Hara quote from the film Gone with the Wind. The intention was to show how Scarlett O’Hara’s audacious character is really a role model for me and, I think, for many women. I created an extensive list of Scarlett quotes, delivered perfectly in Vivien Leigh’s incomparable on-screen performance. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get into the flow of telling my anecdotes while working in the quotes, so I had to botch the idea.
The list remains, and reminds me why Scarlett O’Hara is my absolute favorite character of all time. Even if you’re not a fan of the lengthy film, there are so many memorable moments that the movie itself can’t be denied as one of the greatest of all time. Here is a selection from the list of quotes I pulled:

“Fiddle-dee-dee! War, war, war; this war talk’s spoiling all the fun at every party this spring. I get so bored I could scream!”

“Why does a girl have to be so silly to catch a husband?”

“I never heard of such bad taste.”

“If I said I was madly in love with you, you’d know I was lying.”

“I can shoot straight, if I don’t have to shoot too far.”

“Great balls of fire! Don’t bother me anymore and don’t call me Sugar.”

“I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

*It should be noted that Margaret Mitchell’s novel was adopted for the screen by Sidney Howard, among other uncredited contributors. See more quotes at IMDb or browse this extensive list at the GWTW Fan Page.

“Get Busy Livin’…”

The Shawshank Redemption premiered on September 23rd, 1994, and is celebrating its 20th anniversary today. This isn’t my favorite movie, but it’s definitely in my top 20. If you haven’t seen it, AMC seems to be playing it every Saturday. The movie is based of off Stephen King’s short story Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. I’ve heard a lot of writers scoff at Stephen King’s talent, but you can bet they’re at least 50% jealous. There are so few famous, successful writers with such a career legacy that it’s easier to criticize. I’ve never read King’s story, but the film is so absorbing and interesting that I have to assume it was made out of respect to his manuscript.

I think the theme of Hope (or Hope against all odds) is the most prevalent, but because there are so many themes present it’s difficult to choose. Friendship, justice, corruption, isolation, there’s so much here that it’s hard not to pick out something that appeals to you. In fact, this is one of only a few films that I really love and appreciate that doesn’t focus on romantic love or relationships. I still feel like there’s something for everyone.

I wouldn’t call Shawshank a feel-good movie, but the ending is so satisfying that I’m always cheerful as the credits roll. The acting is equally satisfying, and makes me wonder why Tim Robbins hasn’t been in more movies than he has. Several recognizable quotes also distinguish the writing…

“Lord, it’s a miracle! Man up and vanished like a fart in the wind!”

“How can you be so obtuse?”

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

“Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’.”

 

Creativity, Courtesy of Marilyn Monroe

“Creativity has got to start with humanity and when you’re a human being, you feel, you suffer. You’re gay, you’re sick, you’re nervous or whatever.”

On September 15th, 1954, Marilyn Monroe shot the famous skirt scene shown above for The Seven Year Itch. I am a huge MM fan for a number of reasons. When you watch her on screen, it’s difficult to pay attention to anything else. To me, she’s timelessly beautiful, mysteriously complex, and endlessly fascinating. I’ve read several biographies and have yet to tire of her story. When I find quotes like “Creativity…” or when I read anything that people who knew her have to say, I am reminded of why she never fails to interest me.

When I write, I am almost always trying to tap into an emotion, and usually one that I’ve just experienced or have been able to relate to well enough to write about it. Even with this quote, though I didn’t create it, I’m trying to evoke the curiosity and simple thoughtfulness I experienced when I read it. I think all writers try to stimulate their readers with universal truths or emotions in some way, but when those feelings have been fought, survived, or embraced first hand, they are that much more powerful.

In thinking about this base of creativity compared to the old writer’s mantra “write what you know,” I’m tempted to say “write how you know” instead. Anyone can research 18th century farming or designer sewing techniques or 1950’s celebrities, but no one can feel the exact way you do and express it the specific way you can.  Thanks, MM, for inspiring me again.

Reality, Courtesy of Margaret Mitchell

“Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect.”

Well said, MM. Gone with the Wind is by far my favorite story of all time, and I have Margaret Mitchell to thank for writing her dramatic, powerful novel.

If you’re a student like me, from time to time your expectations may swell up  in front of you while you imagine what you have to look forward to. As a student, it’s about potential, promise, and something you will accomplish later. But later starts now, and potential and promise mean very little with out action. Be careful not to let a lot of grand plans excuse your procrastination like it has for me in the past.