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Viggo Mortensen: “Why just one thing?”

In addition to his work as an actor in movies (Witness, The Lord of the Rings, A History of Violence, and many others), Viggo Mortensen is a writer, musician, poet, photographer and painter with exhibitions at art galleries around the world.

He founded independent publishing house Perceval Press with partner Pilar Perez to publish his books and CDs, plus works of other lesser-known authors, including a book speaking out against the war in Iraq.

One of his images I especially like is from his book Miyelo, with a series of panoramic photographs of a Lakota Ghost Dance, which also tells about events leading up to the massacre at Wounded Knee.

Being so talented and productive is what creativity researcher James C. Kaufman, Ph.D. refers to as creative polymathy.

(See my post I Want To Do It All: Creative Polymathy).

One of the aspects of his life that has undoubtedly encouraged his creative abilities has been living in a number of very different locales and cultures, including Venezuela, Denmark, Argentina, Spain, England and New York.

He has made many comments about his creative life, including these:

“If I don’t get a little time by myself every day, it makes me uncomfortable. I really need that. Even if it’s a minute or two.”

(That might be a reference to introversion – one of the topics of my site Highly Sensitive.)

“I think it was Robert Louis Stevenson who said this. It was about meandering through a career, or the arts in general, without seeming to have a deliberate plan. He said, ‘To travel hopefully is better than to arrive, and the true success is in the labor.’ That’s a great line, ‘To travel hopefully.’ That’s what I’d like to do.”

“Joseph Campbell said the privilege of a lifetime is being yourself. That’s his feeling. And I guess it’s mine too.”

A quote on acting, that can apply to other forms of creative expression as well: “Sidney Lumet said something that was pretty valuable. The work consists largely of making the best possible preparations for accidents to happen. I never quit trying to figure out new stuff and trying to add stuff, until it’s taken away from you to be edited.”

“You try to communicate to others and to yourself, whether it be through a photograph, an e-mail, or an idea. Or if I just want to show you a pond. Just making the effort. There’s a yearning to connect.”

“Sometimes I stand in front of my paintings and think: God! What’s that for? And then I question everything: Am I a good actor? Am I a good father? I should stop bothering people with this crap! I can understand why people jump out of windows.”

[See articles on Criticism / Self-criticism.]

On acting, writing, painting: “They are like branches of the same tree. They feel similar, and all have to do with being in the moment. Not just walking by and not noticing your surroundings. Once you get in the habit of, say, taking a camera with you, whether you use the camera or not, the potential that you might means you are already looking at things in a different way. It’s a start, isn’t it?”

“People who are creators create. People say to me all the time, ‘Why don’t you just focus on one thing?’ And I say, ‘Why? Why just one thing? Why can’t I do more? Who makes up these rules?'”

His site: Perceval Press

Biographical information comes from the Wikipedia page, and Viggo Mortensen Interview By Nina Siegal, The Progressive Magazine.

The fan site has an extensive collection of material, including quotes from various sources, some of which I have used here.

Another quote of his relating to being multitalented: “Photography, painting or poetry – those are just extensions of me, how I perceive things, they are my way of communicating.” (

That is a quote I used in my book Developing Multiple Talents – The personal side of creative expression.

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Viggo Mortensen: “Why just one thing?”

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2019). Viggo Mortensen: “Why just one thing?”. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 26, 2019, from


Last updated: 26 Mar 2019
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