There are several quotes by writers that I come back to when the going gets tough. JK Rowling’s speech at Harvard in 2008 has been a go-to many times over the past 10 years. What resonates? Her acknowledgement of the length of the tunnel; her stripping away of inessentials, what some would call ‘failure’; her narrow focus on the one path that mattered. It doesn’t make the tunnel any less dark, but it does remind me there’s a possible light somewhere up ahead:

 “Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea then how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.

“So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

 

If you fail at basketball, you fail at basketball. If you fail at literature you risk failing as a person, because your full matrix of being is at work in it — DBC Pierre, Release the Bats
There's an entire journalistic enterprise these days trying to tell people who don't sit in trailers all day watching reality television whilst shoveling down corn syrup-and-soy-based salty-sweet Walmart-brand bacon-cheese snax into their maws about how the Other America is the Only Real America. —Rick Wilson, Everything Trump Touches Dies

All the time I feel the tension between composing poetry and writing incidental prose, but I feel it as a creative interchange, not as a conflict. When I took care to describe, in my Wimbledon reports, how Jimmy Connors deployed his Early Grunt along with a two-handed line drive and Bjorn Borg returned it along with a grunt in Swedish, I was being as poetically concentrated as I could ever get. The secret of writing that kind of journalism was to give it everything. The River in the Sky is full of momentary scenes that I might have written as journalism, but the opportunity never arose. Now they have. And only just this morning I saw, out there in the garden, a butterfly getting into a flower. He would have been in the poem if he’d arrived earlier.

— Clive James, New Statesman, August ’18