Debate with other literary critics.

Quote of the Day: Leo Tolstoy

portrait of Leo Tolstoy

Image via Wikipedia

“Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced” (Leo Tolstoy, BrainyQuote).

Hi everyone,

Today I thought I would post a quote about art and writing.  Many artists and writers claim that they become inspired to do their work and that the results comes from their feelings.  Feelings and inspirations lets the artists, writers and musicians create works of art.  However, there are creative individuals who would argue against this claim.  Octavia Butler, one of the most prominent female science-fiction writers thinks that good writing is produced by habit.   In her short story, “Furor Scribendi”, she states what she thinks is important about writing.  “First forget inspiration.  Habit is more dependable.  Habit will sustain you whether you are inspired or not.  Habit will help you finish or polish your stories.  Inspiration won’t.  Habit is persistence in practice.  Forget talent.  If you have it, fine.  Use it.  If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter.  As habit is more dependable than inspiration, continued learning is more dependable than talent” (Butler, 141).

Do you think feeling and inspiration are important?   Is habit?  Is there another factor that is more important?  

Thanks for reading, please post your comments below!

Butler, Octavia. Furor Scribendi. New York: Seven Stories, 1996. Print.


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6 thoughts on “Quote of the Day: Leo Tolstoy

  1. You can have all the inspiration you want but if you can’t use a saw you ain’t makin no furniture.

  2. I’m assuming when she says “habit”, she means skill developed through practice of your art.

    Carl is right, but I have to say that some of my best work has simply flowed out of me. It’s like magic, like the words are writing themselves. It’s hard to even explain how the sentences (or poetry) just fall out of me without any perceived forethought or planning.

    In the end though, these pieces are a combination of both inspiration and “habit”, because the final product is a result of what flowed out of me, plus honing and editing to my satisfaction. So in that case, I agree with her.

    But I don’t agree that inspiration is nothing. Skill alone is nothing to sneer at – masterpieces have been created through sheer determination and practiced skill. But I think that the truly great artists are defined by their art – it is something natural inside of them and it screams to be let out. And I think that’s why there are certain pieces – whether writing, music, painting, acting, sculpture, whatever – that speak to us and arrest our attention and spark emotions in us, more than other pieces.

    • I agree skippinstones, it is important to have the inspiration, talent and habit to create a work of art. When all three are used an artist can create wonderful literature, music and art. However, if the creator only has one of these skills and does not utilize all their resources, then they could never make something worth reading, hearing or seeing.

  3. he blog was how do i say it… relevant, finally something that helped me. Thanks

  4. Balance.
    With any art or craft, working to perfection because it’s our passion, utilizes talent, inspiration and the drive to create that eventually leads into a good habit. Hopefully. 🙂

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