You Can’t Use Up Creativity. The More You Use, The More You Have

Maya Angelou? Oscar Wilde? Anonymous?

angelou03Dear Quote Investigator: Recently on Pinterest and Twitter I have seen the following quotation attributed to the famous wit Oscar Wilde:

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.

However, I thought these were the words of the acclaimed poet and memoirist Maya Angelou. Would you please resolve this conflict?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Oscar Wilde made this remark. It is not listed in “The Wit & Wisdom of Oscar Wilde”, an extensive collection compiled by quotation expert Ralph Keyes. 1

The earliest evidence known to QI appeared in a periodical in 1982 which was initiating a series of articles: 2

With this edition, Bell Telephone Magazine begins a series to profile those people whose attitudes and approaches to problems and challenges bear the mark of creativity — of courage, of talent, of innovative problem solving.

Maya Angelou was the first subject of the series, and her wide accomplishments as a writer, singer, dancer, actress, and teacher were discussed. Angelou commented on the inexhaustibility of creativity. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 3

“You can’t use up creativity,” she stresses. “The more you use, the more you have. It is our shame and our loss when we discourage people from being creative. We set apart those people who should not be set apart, people whom we assume don’t have a so-called artistic temperament, and that is stupid.

“Too often creativity is smothered rather than nurtured. There has to be a climate in which new ways of thinking, perceiving, questioning are encouraged. People also have to feel they are needed.”

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading You Can’t Use Up Creativity. The More You Use, The More You Have

Notes:

  1. 1996, The Wit & Wisdom of Oscar Wilde, Edited by Ralph Keyes, HarperCollins Publishers, New York. (Verified on paper)
  2. 1982, Bell Telephone Magazine, Volume 61, Number 1, Creativity: It’s the Thought that Counts by Mary Ardito, Start Page 32, Quote Page 32, Published by American Telephone and Telegraph Company, New York. (Verified with scans; thanks to Charles Doyle and the University of Georgia, Athens library system)
  3. 1982, Bell Telephone Magazine, Volume 61, Number 1, Creativity: It’s the Thought that Counts by Mary Ardito, Start Page 32, Quote Page 33, Published by American Telephone and Telegraph Company, New York. (Verified with scans; thanks to Charles Doyle and the University of Georgia, Athens library system)

Life Is Not Measured By the Number of Breaths We Take, But By the Moments That Take Our Breath Away

George Carlin? Maya Angelou? Vicki Corona? Hilary Cooper? Kevin Bisch? Will Smith? Philip James Bailey?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following inspirational quotation has been attributed to a wide variety of people:

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

I doubt that this was coined by George Carlin or Maya Angelou though I have seen those ascriptions. Who do you think should be credited?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence known to QI appeared in 1989 in a book for dancers titled “Tahitian Choreographies” by Vicki Corona: 1

Yes, there are so many grueling details and rehearsals to agonize over, but the dances and music of Tahiti add a happy, healthy dimension to our lives! Remember that life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away! Dancing can do that for you!

The above citation was uncovered by the author Phil Bolsta who was writing a book which included a large number of quotations. Bolsta admirably performed extensive research attempting to pin down the sources for the quotations in his book. Bolsta stated on his blog that he contacted Vicki Corona directly to explore the origin of the saying in her book: 2

I was shocked to find this popular quote in a 1989 thirty-two-page booklet on Tahitian dance. I called Vicki Corona on April 17, 2012, and she said that, to the best of her knowledge, the quote was hers because she always wrote original material for the series of dance booklets she produced. However, she acknowledged in a follow-up e-mail: “While I doubt it, there is a possibility that I may have heard that verbiage before and simply went with it, or maybe it just came out from the labyrinths of my mind. Since you’re a writer, also, you know how that works when you’re in the ‘zone’.”

Hence, there is some uncertainty about the origin of this quotation in the mind of the person who employed it in 1989.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Life Is Not Measured By the Number of Breaths We Take, But By the Moments That Take Our Breath Away

Notes:

  1. 1989, Tahitian Choreographies by Vicki Corona, Volume 11, Book 18, Page 36, Dance Fantasy Productions, Printed by Dennis Bolton Enterprises, North Hollywood, California. (Google Books Preview) link
  2. Website: Triumph of the Spirit: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World, Article title: “Through God’s Eyes”—Sources of Quotes, Webpage description: Source notes for the quotations appearing in the book “Through God’s Eyes” by Phil Bolsta, Date on website: Entry posted in May 10, 2012, Website description: Blog of the author Phil Bolsta. (Accessed bolstablog.wordpress.com on December 16, 2013) link