Thoughts
December 5, 2023

43 "simple" quotes about creativity and communication

Each Tuesday, I send out my “3 Simple Things” email that includes one thing from me, one link to something interesting, and one idea to think about. After an irregular email schedule in previous years, I'm proud to have sent this newsletter out without fail since January, and it's quickly become one of my favorite things. And judging by the numbers, people seem to really like it – open rates tend to hover around 45%. It's free if you want in, go sign up here.

As list season continues, I wanted to share some of my favorite quotes that have been featured as the third “simple thing” in my email this year. Reading through them again altogether here made me inspired all over again, and I bet they'll do the same for you:

“When art critics get together they talk about form and structure and meaning. When artists get together they talk about where you can buy cheap turpentine.”
Pablo Picasso

“No one wants advice — only corroboration.”
John Steinbeck

“There's no such thing as a natural-born pilot. Generally, the person with the most experience is best.”
Chuck Yeager

“While cleaning out the shower drain, you discover all the ideas that you thought of in the shower but never wrote down”
Hallie Bateman

“I used to say that a good writer throws out the stuff that everybody else keeps. But an even better test occurs to me: perhaps a good writer keeps the stuff everybody else throws out.”
David Mamet

“The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s 11:30”
Tina Fey

“Great work must be presented to the person that has the power to accept your creations. The problem is that the underlings in any business or enterprise can always say ‘No’ (and many times do), but have no power to say ‘Yes’ – so you must get past them and present to the decision-maker!”
George Louis

“Sometimes I don’t think you should leave it to God. I think God has better things to do than get you that job promotion.”
Padma Lakshmi

"You must practice being stupid, dumb, unthinking, empty. Then you will be able to DO… Try to do some BAD work — the worst you can think of and see what happens but mainly relax and let everything go to hell — you are not responsible for the world — you are only responsible for your work — so DO IT.”
Sol Lewitt

“Writing is not an exercise in excision, it’s a journey into sound. How about ‘tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow’? One tomorrow would suffice, but it’s the other two that have made the thing immortal.”
E.B. White

“They’re the most important relationships in your life, but you should never take your parents’ career advice.”
Brian Chesky

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”
John Steinbeck

“We’ve got to be as clear-headed about human beings as possible, because we are still each other’s only hope.”
James Baldwin

“A great restaurant doesn’t distinguish itself by how few mistakes it makes but by how well they handle those mistakes.”
Danny Meyer

“Don't play everything (or every time); let some things go by. Some music is just imagined. What you don't play can be more important than what you do play.”
Thelonious Monk

“If Nike announced that they were opening a hotel, you’d have a pretty good guess about what it would be like. But if Hyatt announced that they were going to start making shoes, you would have NO IDEA WHATSOEVER what those shoes would be like. That’s because Nike owns a brand and Hyatt simply owns real estate.”
Seth Godin

“Persuasion — the highest form of persuasion at any rate — cannot be achieved without a sense of beauty.”
Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch

“There is nothing wrong with spending a night in jail if it means getting the shot you need.”
Werner Herzog

“No matter how long you have been here, you are a New Yorker the first time you say, That used to be Munsey's, or That used to be the Tic Toc Lounge. That before the internet café plugged itself in, you got your shoes resoled in the mom-and-pop operation that used to be there. You are a New Yorker when what was there before is more real and solid than what is here now.”
Colson Whitehead

“In summer the song sings itself”
William Carlos Williams

“Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”
Kurt Vonnegut

“A writer, like an athlete, must ‘train’ every day. What did I do today to keep in ‘form’?”
Susan Sontag

“Ten decisions shape your life. You'll be aware of five about.”
Julian Casablancas

“We must live life forward and attempt to make sense of it backward. So we fail in both directions.”
James Hannaham

“Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”
Elmore Leonard

“Unless your advertising is built on a BIG IDEA it will pass like a ship in the night. It takes a BIG IDEA to jolt the consumer out of his indifference – to make him notice your advertising, remember it, and take action.”
David Ogilvy

“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”
Salvador Dali

“Take note if you find yourself wondering ‘Where is my good knife? Or, where is my good pen?’ That means you have bad ones. Get rid of those.”
Kevin Kelly

“Writing was to be assessed according to the rules, period. Good writing followed those rules. Bad writing did not... We made a mistake thinking it was a good thing to train students to write like an algorithm. Now we know we have to undo that mistake.”
John Warner

“Every act of perception, is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination.”
Oliver Sacks

“Design is simply planning. My definition of design is this: it is going from an existing position to a preferred one. It’s everything.”
Milton Glaser

“Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in heaven now”
Jack Kerouac

“Children know something that most people have forgotten. Children possess a fascination with their everyday existence that is very special and would be very helpful to adults if they could learn to understand and respect it.”
Keith Haring

“Before I can discard the verse, I have to write it… I can’t discard a verse before it is written because it is the writing of the verse that produces whatever delights or interests or facets that are going to catch the light. The cutting of the gem has to be finished before you can see whether it shines.”
Leonard Cohen

“Clutter and confusion are failures of design, not attributes of information.”
Edward Tufte

“A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”
Kurt Vonnegut

“If the triangles made a god, they would give him three sides.”
Charles de Montesquieu

“The basic philosophy is that the more you add, the better your communication will be.As it happens in communication, it’s just the other way around.”
Massimo Vignelli

“The advantage of a bad memory is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the first time.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

“A library doesn’t need windows. A library is a window.”
Steward Brand

“Busy is a decision. We do the things we want to do, period. If we say we are too busy, it is just shorthand for the thing being ‘not important enough’ or ‘not a priority.’ Busy is not a badge. You don’t find the time to make things, you make the time to do things. If I want to do something, I don’t let busy stand in the way. I make the time to do it.”
Debbie Millman

“My least favorite phrase in the English language is ‘I don't care.’ If you ask somebody, ‘You wanna make love?’ or ‘You wanna play tennis?’ and they say, ‘I don't care’...well, fuck you then—I don't want to play.”
James Caan

“The impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful; it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”
Annie Dillard

About the Author

Ben Guttmann ran a marketing agency for a long time, now he teaches digital marketing at Baruch College, just released his first book – Simply Put, and works with some cool folks on other projects in-between all of that. He writes about how we experience a world shaped by technology and humanity – and how we can build a better one.

Get my new book, it just came out.

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