Marcel Duchamp, “The Creative Act” (1957)
In the creative act, the artist goes from intention to realization through a chain of totally subjective reactions. His struggle toward the realization is a series of efforts, pains, satisfaction, refusals, decisions, which also cannot and must not be fully self-conscious, at least on the esthetic plane.
The result of this struggle is a difference between the intention and its realization, a difference which the artist is not aware of.
Consequently, in the chain of reactions accompanying the creative act, a link is missing. This gap, representing the inability of the artist to express fully his intention, this difference between what he intended to realize and did realize, is the personal ‘art coefficient’ contained in the work.
In other words, the personal ‘art coefficient’ is like a arithmetical relation between the unexpressed but intended and the unintentionally expressed.
What art is in reality is this missing link [between intention and realization], not the links which exist. It’s not what you see that is art, art is the gap. I like this idea and even if it’s not true, I accept it for the truth.
Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet
Everything we do, in art and life, is the imperfect copy of what we intended.
Virginia Woolf, letter to Ethel Smyth, 1930
[M]y difficulty is that I am writing to a rhythm and not to a plot.
Robert Browning, “Andrea del Sarto,” 1855
Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, / Or what’s a heaven for?
Rachel Cusk, Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation, 2012
I remember from childhood how easy it was to imagine, how hard to create: the difference between what I could conceive of and what I could actually do was bewildering. In adulthood I have learned that to envisage is nothing: success is a hard currency, earned by actual excellence. The vision has to be externalised, and in the case of the cake it remains the prisoner of my imaginings. … Was it because the vision was mine that I was so careless with it? I see the same impatience sometimes when my children undertake something they can’t execute, a sort of disregard — almost contempt — for practicality, perhaps even for reality itself. What they like is what is in their head — how boring it is, how hard and intransigent, this plane on which their imaginings aren’t recognised, where their visions are translated into shapeless nonsensical things!
Rachel Cusk, “Rachel Cusk: ‘Aftermath was Creative Death. I was Heading into Total Silence’ by Kate Kellaway, The Observer 24 August 2014
I’m certain autobiography is increasingly the only form in all the arts. Description, character — these are dead or dying in reality as well as in art.
Rachel Cusk, “Without Prior Knowledge: Rachel Cusk and Caille Millner in Conversation,” Work in Progress 16 February 2017
To me the central problem with the novel as it still stands is that it’s a bit like London: it’s still a Victorian construct. And that problem has to do with prior knowledge that the novel has, that you enter this world in which things are known by somebody, and yet it’s supposed to look real. So where’s this knowledge coming from? And that’s almost, again, a Victorian, quasi-religious idea that there is some omniscience somewhere, that there is an omniscient narrator, God, that somebody knows what’s going on, and that there’s some meaningful narrative to all of this. So I thought, I’ve got to write a novel where there’s no prior knowledge at all, and having decided that, the form evolved itself, because once you write with that discipline — once you start writing thinking, “Nothing can be known in this text by the narrator” — everything has to be read from the surface. It is incredible how many sentences you can’t write. I’d say about one in fifty sentences, I thought, okay, that I can write, because that is completely, concretely taken from everything that anybody could see if they were walking past. They could see it or hear it.
It’s the reason for a sequel — I mean, Outline said you can be nobody, you can be merely an observer of what happens in front of you and not have to put all of that information into a moral structure — not have to make a story out of it, a story of yourself or a story of anybody else. And that was all very well, but unless you’re then going to dissolve and go up in a puff of smoke, you know, something does have to happen next because you wake up the next morning, and the next morning, and the next morning — and so what this book [Transit] is about is that process, of how you then reattach yourself to life. And part of that is accepting violence, or re-engaging with it, re-engaging with the things that can hurt you.
[See Rachel Cusk.]