Bukowski’s Letter of Gratitude to the Man Who Helped Him Quit His Soul-Sucking Job and Become a Full-Time Writer

“To not have entirely wasted one’s life seems to be a worthy accomplishment, if only for myself.” “Unless it comes unasked out of your heart and your mind and your mouth and your gut,” Charles Bukowski wrote in his famous poem about what it takes to be a writer, “don’t do it.” But Bukowski himself...

Nietzsche’s 10 Rules for Writers

“Style ought to prove that one believes in an idea; not only that one thinks it but also feels it.” More than a century before Elmore Leonard’s ten rules of writing inspired similar sets of commandments by Neil Gaiman, Zadie Smith, and Margaret Atwood, one of humanity’s greatest minds did precisely that. Between August 8...

Edna St. Vincent Millay on the Death Penalty and What It Really Means to Be an Anarchist

“The minds of your children are like clear pools, reflecting faithfully whatever passes on the bank…” In 1921, Italian immigrants Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, both in their thirties, were convicted of murdering two payroll guards during a bank robbery in Massachusetts. The conviction was made despite highly questionable ballistic evidence and multiple eyewitness accounts...

Tchaikovsky on the “Immeasurable Bliss” of Creativity, the Mystical Machinery of Inspiration, and the Evils of Interruptions

The creative process, cracked open at its rawest. “A self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood,” legendary composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote in 1878 in a letter to his benefactress, Nadezhda von Meck, attesting to what psychologists have since demonstrated empirically — that “grit” is...

Censorship and What Freedom of Speech Really Means: Comedian Bill Hicks’s Brilliant Letter to a Priest

“‘Freedom of speech’ means you support the right of people to say exactly those ideas which you do not agree with.” In early June of 1993, several months before cancer took his life at the age of thirty-two, beloved comedian Bill Hicks received a letter from a priest, bemoaning the “blasphemous” content in Hicks’s live...

Willa Cather on Writing Through Troubled Times: A Moving Letter to Her Younger Brother

“The test of one’s decency is how much of a fight one can put up after one has stopped caring, and after one has found out that one can never please the people they wanted to please.” How does one keep going when the going gets really, really tough? From The Selected Letters of Willa...

Anna Deavere Smith on Discipline and How We Can Learn to Stop Letting Others Define Us

“What you are will show, ultimately. Start now, every day, becoming, in your actions, your regular actions, what you would like to become in the bigger scheme of things.” “Discipline,” the late and great Massimo Vignelli wrote, “is the attitude that helps us discern right from wrong… Discipline is what makes us responsible toward ourselves...

The Breathtaking Love Letters of Violet Trefusis and Vita Sackville-West

“All the hoardings of my imagination I have laid bare to you. There isn’t a recess in my brain into which you haven’t penetrated.” More than a decade before her love affair with Virginia Woolf, in an era when LGBT Pride was as laughable a concept as LGBT shame was culturally codified, English author Vita...

Children’s Endearing Letters to Judy Blume About Masturbation, and the Beloved Author’s Response

“Dear Judy, I want to ask you a very important question…” In 1879, Mark Twain delivered a brilliant satirical lecture about masturbation, mocking the cultural hypocrisies around a practice so prevalent, so natural, yet so condemned. Nearly 130 years later, science writer extraordinaire Mary Roach traced the perilous religious roots of these hypocrisies. But the...

Shiffa’s 36 Days of Type

26 letters. 10 numbers. 36 Days of Type is a project that invites designers, illustrators, and graphic designers from all over the world to give their own interpretation of the alphabet and numbers. Everyday for five weeks, artists are challenged to design a letter or number with different ideas and styles each type. The project...

Writing for the Godless: Flannery O’Connor on Dogma, Belief, and the Difference Between Religion and Faith

“For me a dogma is only a gateway to contemplation and is an instrument of freedom and not of restriction.” As humans, we are wired to cling tightly to our beliefs, even the most delusional, and to automatically dismiss conflicting evidence. This is especially true in areas where our beliefs are particularly charged, such as...

How to Pitch Yourself: A Lesson from Young Eudora Welty’s Impossibly Charming Job Application to The New Yorker

An exquisite yin-yang balance of erudition and irreverence, dignity and self-deprecation. “Only when we take ourselves lightly can we take ourselves seriously, so that we are given the courage to say, ‘Yes! I dare disturb the universe,’” Madeleine L’Engle riffed on T.S. Eliot in her magnificent meditation on creativity. But in the quest to find...

May 9, 1933: Helen Keller’s Scorching Letter to the Nazis about Book-Burning, Censorship, and the Inextinguishable Freedom of Ideas

“You can burn my books… but the ideas in them have seeped through a million channels and will continue to quicken other minds.” In 1933, as the Nazis began taking over Germany, their parasitic despotism spared no effort in co-opting the country’s people, ideas, and culture. Among the many oppressive tactics was a command to...

E.B. White’s Beautiful Letter to a Man Who Had Lost Faith in Humanity

What sailors teach us about hope and the resilience of the human spirit. In 1973, more than two decades after a young woman wrote to Albert Einstein with a similar concern, one man sent a distressed letter to E.B. White, lamenting that he had lost faith in humanity. The beloved author, who was not only...

Letters to a Young Artist: Anna Deavere Smith on Confidence and What Self-Esteem Really Means

“Real self-esteem is an integration of an inner value with things in the world around you.” “Character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — is the source from which self-respect springs,” Joan Didion wrote in her timeless meditation on self-respect. But how can character be cultivated in such a way as...