Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Quote by Madeleine L'Engle::About Failure::July 2

_A Circle of Quiet_ is one of my favorite books. Madeleine L'Engle speaks in such a way that resonates with my whole being.

As I was just reading page 38, I came upon this:

I could, during the long years of failure, console myself with the fact that van Gogh sold precisely one picture while he lived, and that he was considered an impossible painter. I could try to reassure my agent when he was concerned about the damaging effect on me of so much failure; he was afraid it would kill my talent. Can this happen? I don't know, I just don't know.

I think that all artists, regardless of degree of talent, are a painful paradoxical combination of certainty and uncertainty, of arrogance and humility, constantly in need of reassurance, an yet with a stubborn streak of faith in their validity, no matter what. When I look back on that decade of total failure - it's been a mixture, both before, and since - there was even on the days of rejection slips, a tiny, stubborn refusal to be completely put down. And I think, too and possibly most important, that there is a faith simply in the validity of art; when we talk about ourselves as being part of the company of such people s Mozart or van Gogh or Dostoevsky, it has nothing to do with comparisons, or pitting talent against talent; it has everything to do with a way of looking at the universe. My husband said, "But people might think you're putting yourself alongside Dostoevsky." The idea is so impossible that I can only laugh in incredulity. Dostoevsky is a giant; I look up to him; I sit at his feet; perhaps I will be able to learn something from him. But we do face the same direction, no matter how giant his stride, how small mine.

During that dreadful decade I pinned on my workroom wall a cartoon in which a writer, bearing a rejected manuscript, is dejectedly leaving a publisher's office; the caption says, "We're very sorry, Mr. Tolstoy, but we aren't in the market for a war story right now." That cartoon got me through some bad hours. It didn't mean that I was setting myself beside Tolstoy.

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