Quotations about   inspiration

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If you only write when inspired, you may be a fairly decent poet, but you’ll never be a novelist.

Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) British fabulist
(Attributed)
Added on 14-Oct-19 | Last updated 14-Oct-19
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A real writer learns from earlier writers the way a boy learns from an apple orchard — by stealing what he has a taste for and can carry off.

Archibald MacLeish (1892–1982) American poet, writer, statesman
In Charles Poore, “Mr. MacLeish and the Disenchantmentarians,” The New York Times (25 Jan 1968)
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Added on 4-Oct-18 | Last updated 4-Oct-18
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Our live experiences, fixed in aphorisms, stiffen into cold epigram. Our heart’s blood, as we write with it, turns to mere dull ink.

F. H. Bradley (1846-1924) British idealist philosopher [Francis Herbert Bradley]
Aphorisms (1930)
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Added on 12-Dec-17 | Last updated 12-Dec-17
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Every man is wise when attacked by a mad dog; fewer when pursued by a mad woman; only the wisest survive when attacked by a mad notion.

Robertson Davies (1913-1995) Canadian author, editor, publisher
Samuel Marchbanks’ Almanack (1967)
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Added on 24-Oct-17 | Last updated 24-Oct-17
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Be careful how you live your life, it is the only Gospel many people will ever read.

Hélder Câmara (1909-1999) Brazilian Catholic Archbishop, social and political activist
(Attributed)

Quoted in 1985 in Basta, the national news letter of the Chicago Religious Task Force on Central America.

Alt. trans.: "Watch how you live. Your lives may be the only gospel your brothers and sisters will ever read."
Added on 28-Aug-17 | Last updated 28-Aug-17
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The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.

William Arthur Ward (1921-1994) American aphorist, author, educator
Thoughts of a Christian Optimist (1968)
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Added on 11-Aug-17 | Last updated 11-Aug-17
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Why do I write? I guess that’s been asked of every writer. I don’t know. It isn’t any massive compulsion. I don’t feel, you know, God dictated that I should write. You know, thunder rends the sky and a bony finger comes down from the clouds and says, “You. You write. You’re the anointed.” I never felt that. I suppose it’s part compulsion, part a channel for what your brain is churning up.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
“Rod Serling: The Facts of Life,” Interview with Linda Brevelle (4 Mar 1975)
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Added on 3-Jul-17 | Last updated 3-Jul-17
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There is nothing which spreads more contagiously from teacher to pupil than elevation of sentiment: Often and often have students caught from the living influence of a professor a contempt for mean and selfish objects, and a noble ambition to leave the world better than the found it; which they have carried with them throughout life.

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) English philosopher and economist
“On Education,” speech, University of St Andrews (1 Feb 1867)
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Added on 30-Jun-17 | Last updated 30-Jun-17
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A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering cold iron.

Horace Mann (1796-1859) American educator
(Attributed)

Quoted in The Eclectic Magazine, Vol. 8 (Jan-Jun 1868), and in The Myrtle, Vol. 24, #40 (30 Jan 1875)
Added on 16-Jun-17 | Last updated 16-Jun-17
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Just as every conviction begins as a whim so does every emancipator serve his apprenticeship as a crank. A fanatic is a great leader who is just entering the room.

Heywood Broun (1888-1939) American journalist, author
New York World (6 Feb 1928)
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Added on 24-May-17 | Last updated 24-May-17
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This instrument can teach. It can illuminate. Yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise, it is merely wires and lights in a box.

Edward R. Murrow (1908-1965) American journalist
Speech, Radio and Television News Directors Association, Chicago (15 Oct 1958)
Added on 15-Apr-17 | Last updated 15-Apr-17
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No man or woman of the humblest sort can really be strong, gentle, pure, and good, without the world being the better for it, without somebody being helped and comforted by the very existence of that goodness.

Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) American clergyman, hymnist
Sermons, Vol. 1
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Added on 2-Nov-16 | Last updated 2-Nov-16
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Hell to ships, hell to men, hell to cities.

Aeschylus (525-456 BC) Greek dramatist (Æschylus)
Agamemnon

Speaking of Helen of Troy. The literal translation is "Ship-destroyer, man-destroyer, city-destroyer."
Added on 10-Oct-16 | Last updated 10-Oct-16
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We are as liable to be corrupted by our books as by our companions.

Henry Fielding (1707-1754) English novelist, dramatist, satirist
“A Fragment of a Comment on Lord Bolingbroke’s Essays” (1755)
Added on 8-Sep-16 | Last updated 8-Sep-16
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DANILOV: We must give them hope, pride, a desire to fight. Yes, we need to make examples. But examples to follow. What we need are heroes.

Jean-Jacques Annaud (b. 1943) French film director, screenwriter, producer
Enemy at the Gates (2001) [with Alain Godard]
Added on 7-Sep-16 | Last updated 7-Sep-16
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People seldom improve when they have no other model but themselves to copy.

Goldsmith - no other model - wist_info quote

Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774) Irish poet, playwright, novelist
“On Our Theaters,” The Bee, #11 (13 Oct 1759)
Added on 14-Jul-16 | Last updated 14-Jul-16
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I could name all day, those women I deem great in Greece alone and the records would scarcely be complete. And what of Joan of Arc and Emma Goldman? Kate Richards O’Hare and Sarah Bernhardt? Katherine the Great and Elizabeth Barrett Browning? H.D. and Sara Teasdale? Isibella of Spain who pawned her gems that Columbus might sail, and Edna St. Vincent Millay? And that queen, Marie, I think her name was, of some small province — Hungary I believe — who fought Prussia and Russia so long and so bitterly. And Rome — oh, the list is endless there, also — most of them were glorified harlots but better be a glorified harlot than a drab and moral drone, such as the text books teach us woman should be. Woman have always been the inspiration of men, and just as there are thousands of unknown great ones among men, there have been countless women whose names have never been blazoned across the stars, but who have inspired men on to glory.

Robert E. Howard (1906-1936) American author
Letter to Harold Preece (c. Dec 1928)
Added on 31-May-16 | Last updated 31-May-16
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Why are not more gems from our early prose writers scattered over the country by the periodicals? Selections are so far from preventing the study of the entire authors that they promote it. Who could read the extracts which Lamb has given from Fuller, without wishing to read more of the old Prebendary? But great old books of the great old authors are not in every body’s reach; and though it is better to know them thoroughly than to know them only here and there, yet it is a good work to give a little to those who have neither time nor means to get more. Let every bookworm, when, in any fragrant, scarce old tome, he discovers a sentence, a story, an illustration, that does his heart good, hasten to give it the widest circulation that newspapers and magazines, penny and halfpenny, can afford.

Coleridge - fragrant scarce old tome - wist_info quote

Hartley Coleridge (1796-1849) English poet, biographer, essayist, teacher
Biographia Borealis: or, Lives of Distinguished Northerns, “Roger Ascham” (1833)
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Speaking of the practice of including brief extracts -- quotations -- from famous authors in magazines and newspapers to fill up columns or create a break between stories. Ironically, this extracted quotation -- slightly paraphrased -- was widely circulated in the mid-late 19th and early 20th Century misattributed to his father, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, or simply labeled as "Coleridge" without citation, leading to the same confusion.

Usually quoted more succinctly as: "Why are not more gems from our great authors scattered over the country? Great books are not in everybody's reach; and though it is better to know them thoroughly, than to know them only here and there; yet it is a good work to give a little to those who have neither time nor means to get more. Let every bookworm, when in any fragrant, scarce old tome he discovers a sentence, a story, an illustration, that does his heart good, hasten to give it."
Added on 12-May-16 | Last updated 12-May-16
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Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your reading have been to you like the blast of trumpet out of Shakespeare, Seneca, Moses, John, and Paul.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1836)
Added on 20-Apr-16 | Last updated 20-Apr-16
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I suppose every old scholar has had the experience of reading something in a book which was significant to him, but which he could never find again. Sure he is that he read it there, but no one else ever read it, nor can he find it again, though he buy the book and ransack every page.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (after 2 Jul 1867)
Added on 10-Dec-15 | Last updated 10-Dec-15
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The leader holds his position purely because he is able to appeal to the conscience and to the reason of those who support him, and the boss holds his position because he appeals to fear of punishment and hope of reward. The leader works in the open, and the boss in covert. The leader leads, and the boss drives.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) US President (1901-1909)
Speech, Binghamton, New York (24 Oct 1910)
Added on 23-Nov-15 | Last updated 23-Nov-15
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One must be prepared not to act, but to “stand still in the light,” confident that only such a stillness possesses the eloquence to draw men away from lives we must believe they inwardly loathe.

Roszak - stand still in the light - wist_info

Theodore Roszak (1933-2011) American historian and author
The Making of the Counter Culture, ch. 8 (1969)
Added on 16-Nov-15 | Last updated 3-Jun-16
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If you do everything for one reason, then all you have done will become meaningless when the reason does.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays, #41 (2001)
Added on 6-Nov-15 | Last updated 6-Nov-15
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The job of getting people really wanting to do something is the essence of leadership. And one of the things a leader needs occasionally is the inspiration he gets from the people he leads. The old tactical textbooks say that the commander always visits his troops to inspire them to fight. I for one soon discovered that one of the reasons for my visiting the front lines was to get inspiration from the young American soldier. I went back to my job ashamed of my own occasional resentments or discouragements, which I probably — at least I hope I concealed them.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
Speech, Republican State Chairmen, Denver (10 Sep 1955)
Added on 17-Sep-15 | Last updated 17-Sep-15
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There are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or authority, but those who lead inspire us. Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves.

Simon Sinek (b. 1973) American author and motivational speaker
“How great leaders inspire action,” TED Talk (Sep 2009)
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Added on 15-Sep-15 | Last updated 15-Sep-15
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Now I think, speaking roughly, by leadership we mean the art of getting someone else to do something that you want done because he wants to do it, not because your position of power can compel him to do it, or your position of authority. A commander of a regiment is not necessarily a leader. He has all of the appurtenances of power given by a set of Army regulations by which he can compel unified action. He can say to a body such as this, “Rise,” and “Sit down.” You do it exactly. But that is not leadership.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
Speech, Conference of the Society for Personnel Administration (12 May 1954)
Added on 27-Aug-15 | Last updated 27-Aug-15
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My test of the real worth of a man as a preacher is when his congregation go away, saying, not, “What a beautiful sermon!” but “I will do something.”

François de Sales (1567-1622) French bishop, saint, writer [a.k.a. Francis de Sales, b. François de Boisy]
(Attributed)
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Added on 7-Jul-15 | Last updated 7-Jul-15
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If you don’t know what to do, sit still and listen. You may hear something.

Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) American poet, biographer
Incidentals (1900)
Added on 22-Jun-15 | Last updated 22-Jun-15
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It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.

Samuel Adams (1722-1803) American revolutionary, statesman
(Spurious)

Frequently attributed to Samuel or John Adams, but not found before the 1990s. See here and here for more information.
Added on 23-Mar-15 | Last updated 23-Mar-15
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If this is a dream, then perhaps our dreaming
Can touch life’s height to a finer fire:
Who knows but the heavens and all their seeming
Were made by the heart’s desire?

Edwin Markham (1852-1940) American poet
“The Crowning Hour” (2), The Shoes of Happiness, and Other Poems (1913)
Added on 20-Mar-15 | Last updated 20-Mar-15
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Man cannot live without hope. If it is not engendered by his own convictions and desires, it can easily be fired from without, and by the most meretricious and empty of promises.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) First Lady of the US (1933-45), politician, diplomat, activist
“What Has Happened to the American Dream?” Atlantic Monthly (Apr 1961)
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Added on 28-Jan-15 | Last updated 28-Jan-15
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If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.

Hilary Mantel (b. 1952) English writer
In “Ten Rules for Writing Fiction,” The Guardian (20 Feb 2010)
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Added on 5-Nov-14 | Last updated 5-Nov-14
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This, then, is the test we must set for ourselves; not to march alone but to march in such a way that others will wish to join us.

Hubert Horatio Humphrey (1911-1978) American politician
Speech, Buffalo (7 Jan 1967)
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Do not place a photograph of your favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.

Roddy Doyle (b. 1958) Irish novelist, dramatist, screenwriter
In “Ten Rules for Writing Fiction,” The Guardian (20 Feb 2010)
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Added on 17-Apr-14 | Last updated 17-Apr-14
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You should be pioneers in presenting a living faith to the world, and not the dry bones of a traditional faith which the world will not grasp.

Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) Indian philosopher and nationalist [Mahatma Gandhi]
(Attributed)

In Mahadev Desai, With Gandhiji in Ceylon (1928)
Added on 20-Dec-13 | Last updated 20-Dec-13
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A man would do well to carry a pencil in his pocket and write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought are commonly the most valuable, and should be secured because they seldom return.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
(Attributed)
Added on 23-Nov-11 | Last updated 16-May-16
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And is he dead whose glorious mind
Lifts thine on high?
To live in the hearts we leave
Is not to die!

Campbell - not to die - wist_info

Thomas Campbell (1777–1844) Scottish poet
“Hallowed Ground” (1825)
Added on 8-Feb-11 | Last updated 19-Nov-15
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Whether we believe the Greek poet, “it is sometimes even pleasant to be mad”, or Plato, “he who is master of himself has knocked in vain at the doors of poetry”; or Aristotle, “no great genius was without a mixture of insanity”; the mind cannot express anything lofty and above the ordinary unless inspired. When it despises the common and the customary, and with sacred inspiration rises higher, then at length it sings something grander than that which can come from mortal lips. It cannot attain anything sublime and lofty so long as it is sane: it must depart from the customary, swing itself aloft, take the bit in its teeth, carry away its rider and bear him to a height whither he would have feared to ascend alone.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Essays, “On Tranquility of Mind [De Tranquillitate Animi],” 17.10 [tr. W. Langsdorf (1900)]
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See Aristotle.
Added on 10-Aug-09 | Last updated 12-Nov-15
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