You must find out for yourself what it is you love to do. Don’t think in terms of choosing a vocation in order to fit into society, because in that way you will never discover what you love to do. When you love to do something, there is no problem of choice. When you love, and let love do what it will, there is right action, because love never seeks success, it is never caught up in imitation; but if you give your life to something which you don’t love, you will never be free.
—Jiddu Krishnamurti in Think on These Things
The author of genius does keep till his last breath the spontaneity, the ready sensitiveness, of a child, the “innocence of eye” that means so much to the painter, the ability to respond freshly and quickly to new scenes, and to old scenes as though they were new… This freshness of response is vital to the author’s talent… But there is another element to his character, fully as important to his success. It is adult, discriminating, temperate, and just. It is the side of the artisan, the workman, and the critic rather than the artist. It must work continually with and through the emotional and childlike side, or we have no work of art. If either element of the artist’s character gets too far out of hand the result will be bad work, or no work at all. The writer’s first task is to get these two elements of his nature into balance, to combine their aspects into one integrated character.
—Dorothea Brande in Becoming A Writer
I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine marriage and a career.
During my second year of nursing school, our professor gave us a quiz. I breezed through the questions until I read the last one: "What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?" Surely this was a joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Before the class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our grade. "Absolutely," the professor said. "In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say hello." I've never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.
An artist's career always begins tomorrow.
I think I succeeded as a writer because I did not come out of an English department. I used to write in the chemistry department. And I wrote some good stuff. If I had been in the English department, the prof would have looked at my short stories, congratulated me on my talent, and then showed me how Joyce or Hemingway handled the same elements of the short story. The prof would have placed me in competition with the greatest writers of all time, and that would have ended my writing career.
It's been a lifelong problem of mine that those I've been closest to are the ones I've had the least influence on. My parents, my sister, my wife, even my cat — or maybe I should say especially my cat — have never really taken me seriously. That may help to explain why I finished up making a career of peddling my thoughts to the world in general. At least the world in general doesn't automatically dismiss anything coming from me, that is, so long as I say it in a neat epigram of 17 words or less.