Not just one inspirational video but five and a bit

I never used to pay much attention to inspirational videos: I just assumed they all ended with phone numbers for you to buy something or to hand over money for nothing anyway. YouTube is changing that but I am still resistant – except when it comes to commencement lectures. has collected five such videos and an extra similar one in a set that is particularly strong.

The featured speakers are Ellen Degeneres, Aaron Sorkin, David Foster Wallace, President Obama, Conan O’Brien and (the extra one) Ray Bradbury.

It’s hard to pick but I think my favourite is Ellen Degeneres’ which goes thisaway:

But watch the lot over on Brainpickings.

Annie Dillard: how we spend our days is how we spend our lives

Jack London claimed to write twenty hours a day. Before he undertook to write, he obtained the University of California course list and all the syllabi; he spent a year reading the textbooks in philosophy and literature. In subsequent years, once he had a book of his own under way, he set his alarm to wake him after four hours’ sleep. Often he slept through the alarm, so, by his own account, he rigged it to drop a weight on his head. I cannot say I believe this, though a novel like The Sea-Wolf is strong evidence that some sort of weight fell on his head with some sort of frequency — but you wouldn’t think a man would claim credit for it. London maintained that every writer needed a technique, experience, and a philosophical position.

The Writing Life – Annie Dillard (UK edition, US edition)

Dillard examines the idea of order – “a scheduled defends from chaos and whim” – but I think she’s less recommending that we set a timetable than that we become aware of what we’re doing. I want to rush you every line from her book but instead I’m going to be honest first and say that I learnt of it from an absorbing article on Read that for more of Dillard’s writing and writing style.

Have courage of one’s vocation – Picasso

Pablo Picasso on how hard it is to work as a creative individual and yet how important it is to keep at it – and not give in to having a second, more financially stable career too:

When you have something to say, to express, any submission becomes unbearable in the long run. One must have the courage of one’s vocation and the courage to make a living from one’s vocation. The “second career” is an illusion! I was often broke too, and I always resisted any temptation to live any other way than from my painting… In the beginning, I did not sell at a high price, but I sold. My drawings, my canvases went. That’s what counts.

Well, success is an important thing! It’s often been said that an artist ought to work for himself, for the “love of art,” that he ought to have contempt for success. Untrue! An artist needs success. And not only to live off it, but especially to produce his body of work. Even a rich painter has to have success. Few people understand anything about art, and not everyone is sensitive to painting. Most judge the world of art by success. Why, then,leave success to “best-selling painters”? Every generation has its own. But where is it written that success must always go to those who cater to the public’s taste? For myself, I wanted to prove that you can have success in spite of everyone, without compromise.

Do you know what? It’s the success I had when I was young that became my wall of protection. The blue period, the rose period, they were screens that shielded me. Picasso on Success and Why You Should Never Compromise in Your Art – Maria Popova, Brainpickings

Don’t just read more in the Brainpickings article, go on to read more in the book it features: Conversations with Picasso by Brassaï (UK edition, US edition). The conversations are absorbing but there’s also the engaging and encouraging story of how they came to happen at all.