Writing to understand

I stood there speechless for a long while, then I entered it. Such is art.
— John Berger, Confabulations

Phrases came. Visions came. Beautiful phrases. But what she wished to get hold of was that very jar on the nerves, the thing itself before it has been made anything.
— Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

how do you find the unexpected if you already know what you want?
— David Byrne, How Music Works

All too often I write to find out what I think about a subject, not because I already know.
— Neil Gaiman, The View from the Cheap Seats

Writing is a concentrated form of thinking. I don’t know what I think about certain subjects, even today, until I sit down and try to write about them.
— Don DeLillo interviewed by Adam Begley in The Paris Review

I am writing not only to tell. I am writing to discover.
— Siri Hustvedt, Memories of the Future

The many processes are really stages of an overall process one navigates in knowing, making, or discovering something that does not yet exist.
— Kyna Leski, The Storm of Creativity

but I think I wanted to get lost to see what happened next.
— Deborah Levy, Things I Don’t Want to Know

As a writer, I feel it’s important to set out without an entirely prescriptive sense of where you are going. Getting lost is an essential part of the process.
— Cressida Cowell, ‘First Steps: Our Neverlands’

But along the way, we are reminded that the process is as valuable as the product, the method as potentially revelatory as the motive.
— Jessica Helfand, Design: The Invention of Desire

The process of discovery involved in creating something new appears to be one of the most enjoyable activities any human can be involved in.
— Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Creativity

Some of the oldest stories we know, including creation myths, were attempts to make sense of the world.
— Peter Turchi, Maps of the Imaginations

Arriving at the blank page represents our coming to the end of the undecided space we call living. Now we must get down to telling.
— Amit Chaudhuri, ‘The Moment of Writing’

Simply knowing one’s intention and then executing it does not make good art.
— George Saunders, ‘What Writers Really Do When They Write’

The not-knowing is crucial to art, is what permits art to be made. Without the scanning process engendered by not-knowing, without the possibility of having the mind move in unanticipated directions, there would be no invention.
— Don Barthelme, Not-Knowing

I’ve only ever written to decant, to provide myself an elsewhere.
— Colette O’Connor, ‘Analogue’

I have always thought that making art, whether it’s visual art, music, or fiction, is a form of conscious dreaming, that art draws from the boundlessness, brokenness, merging identities, disjunctions of space and time, and intense emotions of our unconscious lives.
— Siri Hustvedt, Living, Thinking, Looking

Art is philosophy. Art is putting our true nature on display before ourselves. Because we need to. Art is writing ourselves.
— Alva Noë, Strange Tools

We make up stories in order to give a shape to our questions; we read or listen to stories in order to understand what it is that we want to know.
— Alberto Manguel, Curiosity

I am afraid of writing, too, because when I write I am always moving toward the unarticulated, the dangerous, the place where the walls don’t hold. I don’t know what’s there, but I’m pulled toward it.
— Siri Hustvedt, A Plea for Eros

He thinks how, in all these endless pages, all these stories and poems and essays and letters, he tries to give imaginary meaning to parts of his life he doesn’t understand.
— James Sallis, Gently into the Land of the Meateaters