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A Woman Speaks: The Lectures, Seminars and Interviews of Anaïs Nin

Anaïs Nin

Top 10 Best Quotes

“What can you give when there is no self, when you have no sensitivity, no receptivity, no warmth, nothing to contact others with?”

“You must not fear or hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and your feelings. It is also true that creation comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to receive, to nourish yourself, and not be afraid of fullness. The fullness is like a tidal wave which then carries you, sweeps you into experience and writing. Permit yourself to flow and overflow. Allow for the rise in temperature and all the expansions and intensifications. Something is always born of excess. Great art was born of great terror, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.”

“In our twenties we have conflicts. We think everything is either-or, black or white: we are caught between them and we lose all our energy in the conflicts. My answer, later on in maturity, was to do them all. Not to exclude any, not to make a choice. I wanted to be everything. And I took everything in, and the more you take in, the more strength you find waiting to accomplish things and to expand your life, instead of the other (which is what we have been taught to do) which is to look for structure and to fear change, above all to fear change. Now I didn't fear change.”

“I'm talking about equalizing the pressure between outer actions and events which are shattering and devastating to us and then the place where we recompose and reconstruct ourselves, where we finally achieve what Jung called the second birth. The second birth is the one that you can make, and the discovery of that to me was always a great relief. As long as we expect the changes to come only from the outside or from action outside or from political systems, then we are bound to feel helpless, to feel sometimes that reality is bigger and stronger than we are. But if suddenly we begin to feel that there is one person we can change, simultaneously we change many people around us. And as a writer I suddenly discovered the enormous radius of influence that one person can have.”

“There are a great many times we are passive in the face of destiny, forgetting that we really are able to be the captains of our destiny. We are taught a kind of passivity; the culture has taught us that a certain passivity is a feminine quality. So the day that I was told by Otto Rank that I was responsible for the failures, the defeats that had happened to me, and that it was in my power to conquer them, that day was a very exhilarating day. Because if you’re told that you’re responsible that means that you an do something about it. Whereas the people who say society is responsible, or some of the feminist women who say man is responsible, can only complain. You see if you put the blame on another, there is nothing you can do. I preferred to take the blame, because that also means that one can act, and it’s such a relief from passivity, from being the victim.”

“[One way of going about liberation] is the political way, changing the laws and fighting for equalities. There are so many ways of doing it. But the other I stress simply because it is the one I know: the psychological way, which is the removal of obstacles so that you can create your own freedom and you don’t have to ask for it. You don’t have to wait for it to be given to you. And the women I chose as my heroines were women who created their own freedom. They didn’t demand it, they didn’t ask for it. They created it. Something in themselves made them independent women, and this kind of independence I stress. […] It is very easy to blame society or to blame the man, but it actually makes you feel even more helpless. Because that means that you are waiting for the man to liberate you or for the government to liberate you or for history. And that takes a long time. It takes centuries, and it’s too slow for me.”

“The need of language at this moment, for woman to write well, to express herself, is almost as important as the actual evolution of her growth. The Diary shows this, that the more I wrote, the clearer my thinking was, that the more I expressed myself, the more I was able then to express to the men or the artists around me what I felt or where I stood. It’s a great involvement with language, and the language in the first Diary is not as developed as it is in the second, or in the third. And it was finally by writing that I taught myself to talk with others. So I can’t stress enough for woman at this moment the need for articulateness, the need to care about language; because again the thing that can create misunderstandings and alienation and estrangement is the inability to speak, the inability to write. We need you to write, we need you to speak, we need this revelation of woman who is not only trying to be revealed to herself but needs to be revealed to others. I owe to writing everything. I owe to it the facts that I can sit here and talk with you. I know you don’t believe that, but I didn’t talk at all. And an aunt came one time and said to my mother: ‘I’m awfully sorry, but you have a subnormal child.’ When I was thirty I listened always to other people, and I never said a word. I was really mute. So I taught myself to talk, and I owe to writing the fact that we can talk together now. To me there is no question about it, there is no doubt of its meaning to our life.”

“Now everybody separated that and said: there is either rushing virtuously to live a collective life or else there is this selfish introspection and concern with your own development. But the two are completely interdependent, they are completely interactive; and the more you have this response to life, the more you have a source to respond with, then of course the more enrichment you pass around you. Why we made a dichotomy between those two — saying that the two wouldn’t enrich each other — I don’t know. Because whatever the individual does for himself and by himself is something that ultimately flows back again like a river into the collective unconscious. So if we are disappointed today in the external changes it’s because not enough of us have worked at raising a better quality of human being.”

“[We never realized] that what we could bring to the group and what we brought to the communal life was really the summary of our own self-development, our own growth […] If we brought something besides our problems or our difficulties or the unsolved parts of our lives, then these tremendously large movements would have another character. They would not serve for war and they wouldn’t serve for separation between races and they wouldn’t divide us. We wouldn’t have so much hostility as we have in our society, a frightening amount of hostility. It’s almost a blind hostility that doesn’t even know where it comes from, blind anger which strikes out at others and blames others always for whatever trouble we find ourselves in.”

“When I once said I would rather be married to an artist than be one, I was really being a coward. I was really dropping out. I was saying that I would help the artist but I was not going to try to be one. There was nothing wonderful or sacrificial about that. The muse is a very suspect character, because I simply was refusing to take the responsibility of being an artist myself. So I had decided I would be the helper, the assistant; it was really much easier. So when women complain about being forced into that role, I have my doubts. Because I played that role too. After a while I realized Miller wasn’t going to write the book I wanted to write, and that Durrell wasn’t going to write the book I wanted to write. It was up to me.”

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Book Keywords:

motivation, change, life

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