Anna Deavere Smith

Literary Birthday – 18 September – Anna Deavere Smith

Happy Birthday, Anna Deavere Smith, born 18 September 1950.


  1. Be more than ready. Be present in your discipline. Remember your gift. Be grateful for your gift and treat it like a gift. Cherish it, take care of it, and pass it on.
  2. Each person has a literature inside them.
  3. You are an explorer. You understand that every time you go into the studio, you are after something that does not yet exist.
  4. Discipline — both mental and physical — is crucial.
  5. Artists are the people that no matter what, pick up the pen, pick up a paintbrush. They take the time to translate what is happening to create something that resonates deeply with the rest of the people that are caught in the middle of their own reality.
  6. Learning is a tunnel experience that makes us think more broadly.
  7. We spend so much time bantering about the words when the real open conversations might very well be our actions. I worry about our rhetoric.
  8. Even jealousy is based on fantasies: a fantasy that someone else has what belongs to you.
  9. We can learn a lot about a person in the very moment that language fails them. In the very moment that they have to be more creative than they would have imagined in order to communicate. It’s the very moment that they have to dig deeper than the surface to find words, and at the same time, it’s a moment when they want to communicate very badly. They’re digging deep and projecting out at the same time.
  10. I am interested in personal stories because that’s when people become expressive, spontaneous and heartfelt.
  11. You can teach technical things. You can teach people critical facilities. You can give them techniques. You can teach discipline. And you can teach them about the business. So, yes, I think there’s quite a lot that we can teach.
  12. You know, interesting minds usually do hold more than one idea at a time.
  13. What you are will show, ultimately. Start now, every day, becoming, in your actions, your regular actions, what you would like to become in the bigger scheme of things.

Anna Deavere Smith is an American playwright, professor, and actor.  She is the author of Letters to a Young Artist: Straight-up Advice on Making a Life in the Arts.

Source for Image

John Mathew Smith & from Laurel Maryland, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 18th September 2014