“Talent is a question of quantity. Talent does not write one page: it writes three hundred. No novel exists which an ordinary intelligence could not conceive; there is no sentence, no matter how lovely, that a beginner could not construct. What remains is to pick up the pen, to rule the paper, patiently to fill it up. The strong do not hesitate. They settle down, they sweat, they go on to the end. They exhaust the ink, they use up the paper. This is the only difference between men of talent and cowards who will never make a start. In literature, there are only oxen. The biggest ones are the geniuses—the ones who toll eighteen hours a day without tiring. Fame is a constant effort.”
From Jules Renard’s journal, in an entry from 1887. Renard would have been 23 years old at the time of this writing.
In one of his more cryptic jottings, which appears eight years later in these same journals, Renard wrote: “There are good writers and great ones. Let us be the good ones.”
You can find that epigram, along with other highlights from the first half of Renard’s journals, at the link below. Later this month, I’ll publish selections from the second and arguably more remarkable half of his largely overlooked masterwork.