Where all the best stuff comes from

“Ex nihilo nihil fit.”

Of all the Latin expressions my sixth-grade teacher dropped into his lessons, that’s the only one I remember.

”Ex nihilo nihil fit.”

From nothing, nothing comes.

“An artist confronts his easel in a studio bare except for his essential tools. In this small painting, the young Rembrandt represents the daunting moments of conception and decision necessary to the creation of a work of art.”

— From the label for Rembrandt’s “Artist in his Studio” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

— Charlie Pierce followed then-Sen. Barack Obama on the campaign trail in early 2008. He was not convinced.

— Lin-Manuel Miranda was looking for a book to read on vacation. He picked up Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton. It worked out pretty well for him.

— Curtis Sittenfeld’s best friend fought cancer before dying.

— Kacey Musgraves had an acid trip on her front porch.

— Phoebe Waller-Bridge wrote a sketch for a friend.

— Rachel McDaniel researched the early history of the Toronto Blue Jays.


— Frederic Auguste Bartholdi got a gig to design a sculpture commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence (although it wasn’t done in time).

— Heather Armstrong’s depression was so terrible, she agreed to an experimental treatment.

— Jennifer Nettles had thoughts on salvation.

— Ali Trotta wants us to be brave.

— CP Falcone had Christmas without her father.

I could go on and on, and so could you, if you felt like cataloguing your favorites.

But whether they’re based on things seen, life lived, a vision in one’s mind or other inspiration, like Rembrandt’s artist at his easel (or Rembrandt at his own), everyone who created them faced the blinking cursor, the notes not yet sang or played, the blank sketchbook, the empty pages.

All of their works … came from nothing.

3 thoughts on “Where all the best stuff comes from

  1. Pingback: The week gone by — Jan. 19 – A Silly Place

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