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6 Rules for Creative Sanity from Radical Psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich

“Never yield to the expediencies of life except where it is basically harmless.”

A student of Freud’s and a radical pioneer of early psychoanalysis, Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957) was a fascinating and often misunderstood mind who influenced a generation of public intellectuals, including William Burroughs, Saul Bellow, and Norman Mailer. Where’s the Truth?: Letters and Journals, 1948-1957 (public library), following previous installments, is the fourth and final volume of Reich’s autobiographical writings, culled from his diaries (a favorite trope around here), letters, and laboratory notebooks. What emerges is an intimate portrait of the fringe scientist’s hopes and fears, aspirations and insecurities, doubts and convictions.

Reich with his dog, Troll, on the porch outside his study at the Orgone Energy Observatory (The Wilhelm Reich Infant Trust via FSG)

But nothing bespeaks his inherent idealism more crisply than this journal entry dated June 7, 1948, in which Reich lists his six necessary conditions for creative sanity — an aspirational, if overly ambitious and pedantic, blueprint to the secret of happiness and the life of purpose.

To stay sane in an insane world as a creative man or woman he or she must:

  1. Keep one’s life financially independent.
  2. Continue unabated to exercise one’s power of creativity in concrete, strenuous tasks, always seeking perfection as near as possible.
  3. Carefully cherish LOVE of a partner with full gratification, of the total emotional being if possible, of the body in a clean way if necessary.
  4. Keep out of the trap of confusion by the average man and woman, helping others to keep out of the trap too as best they can.
  5. Keep one’s structure clean like brook water through knowing and correcting every mistake, making the corrected mistake the guiding lines to new truth.
  6. Never yield to the expediencies of life except where it is basically harmless or where the main line of development is not impeded for the duration of one’s life.

Where’s the Truth? is utterly absorbing and illuminating throughout — highly recommended.


Anaïs Nin on Life, Hand-Lettered by Artist Lisa Congdon

“You live out the confusions until they become clear.”

UPDATE: After a flurry of requests, the quotes are now available as prints. Enjoy.

It’s no secret I’m an obsessive reader of famous diaries, most recently those of French-Cuban writer Anaïs Nin (1903-1977), one of the most dedicated diarists in modern literary history. Her sixteen tomes of published journals, spanning more than half a century between the time she began writing at the age of eleven and her death, are a treasure trove of insight on literature, culture, human nature, and the life of meaning.

Earlier this month, I asked the inimitable Wendy MacNaughton to illustrate Susan Sontag’s insights on love, as synthesized from the writer’s diaries. Now, I’ve turned to another extraordinary illustrator, Lisa Congdon ( ), and asked her to bring to life some of my favorite highlights from The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 3: 1939-1944 (public library) in the style of her lovely 365 Days of Hand Lettering project.

The results took my breath away — enjoy:




You can find Lisa’s stunning prints on 20×200 and Etsy, and follow her on Twitter.

The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 3 is sublime in its entirety — highly recommended.


How Alfred Hitchcock Changed One Boy’s Life

“Many times it takes such a spark as this to help a youngster out of his shell and on the road to confidence.”

Alfred Hitchcock (August 13, 1899–April 29, 1980) was a legendary director, insightful happiness guru, and a masterful exploiter of human psychology. Hitchcock, Piece by Piece (public library) deconstructs what author Laurent Bouzereau calls “the Hitchcock touch,” in large part through never-before-published memorabilia from the Hitchcock family archive — letters, memos, photographs, and other ephemera that offer an unprecedented glimpse of the legendary director’s life and mind. Among them is this heart-warming letter from a California school principal, who wrote Hitchcock after the director’s visit to the local school while filming The Birds in March of 1962 and described the impact of the encounter on one particular child:

3775 Bodega Highway

April 3, 1962

Mr. Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock Productions
Bodega Bay, California

Dear Mr. Hitchcock:

I wanted to take the time to say that your stopping one morning on your way to Bodega Bay to give a group of children a drawing and autograph of you was certainly a deed of thoughtfulness. It is realized that taking the time from your busy schedule is not an easy thing to do.

The real purpose of this letter is to inform you what your deed of kindness did for a boy to whom you gave your drawing and autograph. This boy is quite shy and does not participate readily in class activities, such as sharing his experiences before others during sharing time. He was so thrilled and moved by his experience that he proudly shared his experience and autograph not only with his own class, but in every classroom in the school. The boy never before has done such a thing. Many times it takes such a spark as this to help a youngster out of his shell and on the road to confidence. You don’t realize what your act of kindness has done for this child.

I realize that many other people since then have tried to take advantage of the same opportunity and this has made it difficult and impossible for you to fulfill. None the less, your thoughtful act will not be forgotten by youngsters and teachers alike.


Duncan Coleman

Cue in Henry Miller on altruism.

Letters of Note


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