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  • From the VQR Vault:Ambition and Success

Meanwhile, mastering a craft and practicing it, especially if you are simultaneously holding a day job or looking after children and a household, is no simple matter of nine to five. The hours of working at art are stolen. Even when aims are relatively modest, all art-makers and craftsmen have to decide how much of their emotional and physical energy, their money, their lost wages to put into their work.

Janna Malamud Smith, “Ruthlessness and Art-Making,” Summer 2012

…Fitzgerald speaks of “my first childish love of myself, my belief that I would never die like other people, and that I wasn’t the son of my parents but a son of a king, a king who ruled the whole world.” At any rate, the ideal was there, and Fitzgerald’s problem was complicated by the fact that for him success was not an inner matter; it had to be visible, accessible in material terms.

Charles Weir Jr., “An Invite with Gilded Edges: A Study of F. Scott Fitzgerald,” Winter 1944

But I also believe in a vicious circle upward—with each struggle for new form, each independent victory, we also perceive something new, and with each glimpse, we become aware of a new experience, and the new experience will not allow itself to be set in the old form, and we must make a new form, and now the experience deepens—

Robert Bly, “Robert Bly and James Wright: A Correspondence,” Winter 2005

He stood tense, as if he felt oppressed by the invisible presence of some long-forgotten backdrop and palmstand. “Smile!” demanded the man and the girl together, anxiously. And the sight of them, so concerned for his picture released him to smile what was inside him, a strong, wide smile of pure achievement, that gathered up the unequal components of his face-his slim fine nose, his big ugly horse-teeth, his black crinkled-up eyes, canceled out the warring inner contradictions that they stood for, and scribbled boldly a brave moment of whole man.

Nadine Gordimer, “The Catch,” Summer 1951

I spring joy out of my rib cageLike a flash of pigeons flying NorthSouth here in Mississippi, Florida,

I insist on the aspiring eye,Try as time does to cast it down,Cast up the eye, birds their blue nature

Transfer through the air from the soulWhole in its ambiguous essenceFrom one place to another

Without waste, we follow themTen times higher for their flightBecause we dream the same dream

Teeming in space out of our rib cage,Age shall not deter us, nor walking staleFlying, we are going up high in joy

On blue air

Richard Eberhart, “Incidence of Flight,” Spring 1975

We draw lines that create figures like those in astrological charts which will explain the mythical success of others while limning the chimeras of our own bad luck. Surely, we can revise the accepted wisdom and say that, if not in the stars, our destinies must lie in the connections we faintly perceive between these stars.

Hilary Masters, “Connections,” Autumn 1995

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