In Their Own Words

Monkey Typing
“[R]ather than equal what I have written and be satisfied, I will idle away an age accumulating a greater inspiration.”

Robert Frost, in a letter to an editor after the publication of his first poem

“[I]t’s worth recognizing that there is no such thing as an overnight success… I still haven’t drawn the strip as long as it took me to get the job. To endure five years of rejection to get a job requires either a faith in oneself that borders on delusion, or a love of the work. I loved the work.”

Bill Watterson, in a commencement speech, discussing his career as a cartoonist and creator of Calvin and Hobbes

“[I]f the first heir of my invention prove deformed, I shall be sorry it had so noble a god-father, and never after ear so barren a land, for fear it yield me still so bad a harvest.”

William Shakespeare, in a letter to his wealthy benefactor, upon submitting his first official poem for review

“I used to play the guitar when I was ten, you know. So I figured maybe my thing is playing the guitar, maybe that’s my little gift. Like somebody can make a cake, or somebody else can saw a tree down, and other people write… Maybe I got a better gift. But as of right now, I haven’t found out what it is.”

Bob Dylan, in an interview from 1963, explaining how he became a songwriter

“I do not think one can assess a writer’s motives without knowing something of his early development. His subject-matter will be determined by the age he lives in… but before he ever begins to write he will have acquired an emotional attitude from which he will never completely escape.”

George Orwell, in his essay, “Why I Write”

“What first stuns the young writer emerging from college is that there is no clear-cut road for him to travel on. He must chop a path in the wilderness of his own soul; a disheartening process, lifelong and lonesome.”

Flannery O’Connor, in an essay, “The Writer and the Graduate School”

“My experience is when you’re young, you are quickly going through the list of what you can’t do, looking for what you can do. For me it was wow, not an athlete, really not an athlete. Really intimidated by math and sciences… Not good at so many things, and then I started to hit areas where I was extremely comfortable. I liked creative writing right away, and I liked making my friends laugh… When you come to terms with an ability, it’s a religious experience and it changes you.”

Conan O’Brien, in an interview with Inside the Actor’s Studio

“There’s people that say: “It’s not fair. You have all that stuff.” I wasn’t born with it. It was a horrible process to get to this. It took me my whole life. If you’re new at this — and by “new at it,” I mean 15 years in, or even 20 — you’re just starting to get traction. Young musicians believe they should be able to throw a band together and be famous, and anything that’s in their way is unfair and evil. What are you, in your 20s, you picked up a guitar? Give it a minute.”

Louis CK, in an interview with The New York Times