“The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing. Isolated, neurotic, caffeine addled, crippled by procrastination, consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing and soul-crushing inadequacy… and that’s on a good day.”
- Robert De Niro
“The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing. Isolated, neurotic, caffeine addled, crippled by procrastination, consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing and soul-crushing inadequacy… and that’s on a good day.”
- Robert De Niro
The problem (if there was one) was simply a problem with the question. He wants to paint a bird, needs to, and the problem is why. Why paint a bird? Why do anything at all? Not how, because hows are easy, series or sequence, one foot after the other, but existentially why bother, what does it solve? Be the tree, solve for bird. What does that mean? It’s a problem of focus, it’s a problem of diligence, it’s supposed to be a grackle but it sort of got away from him. But why not let the colors do what they want, which is blend, which is kind of neighborly, if you think about it. Blackbird, he says. So be it. Indexed and normative. Who gets to measure the distance between experience and its representation? Who controls the lines of inquiry? He does, but he’s not very good at it. And just because you want to paint a bird, do actually paint a bird, it doesn’t mean you’ve accomplished anything. Maybe if it was pretty, it would mean something. Maybe if it was beautiful it would be true. But it’s not, not beautiful, not true, not even realistic, more like a man in a birdsuit, blue shoulders instead of feathers, because he isn’t looking at a bird, real bird, as he paints, he is looking at his heart, which is impossible, unless his heart is a metaphor for his heart, as everything is a metaphor for itself, so that looking at the page is like looking out the window at a bird in your chest with a song in its throat that you don’t want to hear but you paint anyway because the hand is a voice that can sing what the voice will not and the hand wants to do something useful. Sometimes, at night, in bed, before I fall asleep, I think about a poem I might write, someday, about my heart, says the heart. Answer: be the heart. Answer: be the hand. Answer: be the bird. Answer: be the sky.
The Lori’s, the Mimi’s, the Beth’s, the… (I can go on and on)…they weave words. Fine, beautiful, silky words. Effortlessly sliding around rock. Floating on air currents on a magic carpet. Drifting upward with red Helium balloons. And then. There’s me. Chopping. Hacking. Slashing. Racking my mind to find just the right word. Blow after blow of self-flagellation. It can’t be due to a lack of depth in (of?) vocabulary. (Well, maybe it is.) I do have a short list of magic words. I love them. Yet, I find it impossible to work them into a sentence. (Note to Self: In time DK. In time. You will work this list. It might be 3 yards and a cloud of dust, but you will cross the damn goal line. Yes you will. And yes readers, you will soon find these deep blog passages of mine “imbued with sparkle and élan.”* Oh, God. Help me.)
Bucolic In a lovely rural setting.
Conflate To blend together.
Demure Shy and reserved.
Ebullience Bubbling enthusiasm.
Ethereal Gaseous, invisible but detectable.
Evanescent Vanishing quickly, lasting a very short time.
Gossamer The finest piece of thread, a spider’s silk.
Halcyon Happy, sunny, care-free.
Imbue To infuse, instill.
Incipient Beginning, in an early stage.
Ineffable Unutterable, inexpressible.
Inure To become jaded.
Lissome Slender and graceful.
Mellifluous Sweet sounding.
Panoply A complete set.
Petrichor The smell of earth after rain.
Propinquity An inclination.
Scintilla A spark or very small thing.
Sumptuous Lush, luxurious.
Surreptitious Secretive, sneaky.
Woebegone Sorrowful, downcast.
“I would like this to signal the end of “wasted angst” in my life: I’ve never regretted anything so much as having particular individual worries, in a certain sense anachronistic ones, whereas general worries, worries about our time (or at any rate those that can be reduced to such: like your problem in paying the rent, for instance) are so many and so vast and so much “my own” that I feel they are enough to fill all my “worryability” and even my interest and enjoyment in living. So from now on I want to dedicate myself entirely to these latter (worries) — but I am already aware of the traps in this question and that’s why for some time now my first need has been to “de-journalistize” myself, to get myself out of the stranglehold that has dominated these last few years of my life, reading books to review immediately, commenting on something even before having to time to form an opinion on it. I want to build a new kind of daily program for myself where I can finally get into something, something definitive (within the limits of historical possibility), something not dishonest or insincere (unlike the way today’s journalist always behaves, more or less). For that reason I make several plans for myself: … to maintain my contacts with reality and the world, but being careful, of course, not to get lost in unnecessary activities; and also to set up my own individual work not as a “journalist” any more but as a “scholar,” with systematic readings, notes, comments, notebooks, a load of things I’ve never done; and also, eventually, to write a novel.”
~ Italo Calvino
Italo Calvino (1923 – 1985) was an Italian journalist and writer of short stories and novels. His best known works include the Our Ancestors trilogy (1952–1959), the Cosmicomics collection of short stories (1965), and the novels Invisible Cities (1972) and If on a winter’s night a traveler (1979). Lionised in Britain and the United States, he was the most-translated contemporary Italian writer at the time of his death, and a noted contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Here are my selections for the inspiring posts of the week, this Thanksgiving week:
Greg @ Sippican Cottage with his post Thanksgiving 2013: “…I think the worst condition of man is loneliness. It is a terrible thing to be lonely, or worse, truly alone. No one goes crazy in general population. It’s solitary that eats at your mind. Even the craziest of men, immured in stone, unable to get even a glimpse of the bright, blue tent of the sky, scratch at the walls to leave a message; to tell another that they were there… I am not alone in this world, which is good, because I have a melancholy nature. I am married, and I have children to throw rolls over the table at one another. They are my name, scratched on the unyielding wall of the world, telling anyone that will bother to notice that I was here. My family makes me calm about many things…People don’t often appreciate things that come readily to hand. I’m a person… We will have enough to eat, and sit in a warm room, laugh and wonder at the dogeared cards we have been dealt, and I’ll try mightily to shed the light that is my true function, to make me more fit for my work. We will all pray over our plate like children. Thanksgiving is the only kind of prayer that you can be sure will work, because it faces backwards. I tap on the wall of the Intertunnel, too. I often feel disconnected from my fellow passengers on this spinning rock, moreso each day. I wonder if some other inmate, some fellow traveler, might hear my tapping, and be braced by the thought of a fellow internee. I often hear tapping in return, and it refreshes me to carry on.” Amazing post. More here. [Read more...]
It’s a big word for me.
I feel it everywhere.
Almost, but not quite.
~ Joan Bauer, “Almost Home”
Joan Bauer, 62, is an award-winning author of young adult literature. Before publishing her first book, Bauer worked for the Chicago Tribune, McGraw Hill books and WLS Radio.
“I had moved from journalism to screenwriting when one of the biggest challenges of my life occurred. I was in a serious auto accident which injured my neck and back severely and required neurosurgery. It was a long road back to wholeness, but during that time I wrote Squashed, my first young adult novel. The humor in that story kept me going. Over the years, I have come to understand how deeply I need to laugh. It’s like oxygen to me. My best times as a writer are when I’m working on a book and laughing while I’m writing. Then I know I’ve got something.”
“Is this magic? A miracle? No, it’s common as dirt.
It’s how creativity works. We show up. We do our best. Good things happen.
This is the intersection of Hard Work and Inspiration.
When we say “Put your ass where your heart wants to be,” this is what we mean.
This is what being a pro is all about. It’s why we practice self-discipline, self-validation, self-reinforcement…
We master all of those disciplines for one reason: so that we can be sitting there in the sweet spot when the Muse’s rocket ship passes by. That’s how the two sides work together. Hard work and inspiration.
Diligence produces inspiration because it shows respect to the goddess.
Genius and brilliance do not earn her favor. She prefers sweat. Get your butt in to the studio. Sit down at the piano. Boot up your iMac.
See yourself as the Muse sees you. You’ll know what to do.”
~ Stephen Pressfield, “You, as the Muse Sees You“
Image Credit: Patrick Wilbanks
“You want to know the meaning of life? This is your highest calling: You are called into the dynamic co-creation of the cosmos. This breath is your canvas and your brush. These are the raw materials for your art, for the life you are making. Nothing is off limits. Your backyard, your piano, your paint brush, your conversation, Rwanda, New Orleans, Iraq, your marriage, your soul. You’re making a living with every step you take. So when you make a living, do not merely make money. Why settle for cash when joy is on the line? You feel a thrill when you dance, when you sing, when you finish your poem; even when you sweep the room you see order pressing back against the chaos. So when you create, never settle for making a living — at least not the way that the world might define that phrase. When you make a living, you are speaking a new world into existence. You are creating grace within the confines, you are co-signing God’s blank checks.”
~ Jon Foreman, Lead Singer & Guitarist of Switchfoot. Excerpt from Meaning of Life.
~ James Joyce (1882-1941) in a letter to his brother
Good Wednesday morning. Here we go with my selections of the inspiring posts of the week…
Good Wednesday morning. It’s been a long time in recognizing my favorite posts of the week. Here we go…
Franz Kafka’s signature in a letter to Milena Jesenská. It reads:
Franz wrong, F wrong, Yours wrong
nothing more, calm, deep forest
July 29, 1920.
In 1919, Milena Jesenská was working as a translator. She discovered a short story (The Stoker) by Prague writer Franz Kafka, and wrote him to ask for permission to translate it from German to Czech. The letter launched an intense and increasingly passionate correspondence. Jesenská and Kafka met twice: they spent four days in Vienna and later a day in Gmünd. Eventually Kafka broke off the relationship, partly because Jesenská was unable to leave her husband, and their almost daily communication ceased abruptly in November 1920. They meant so much to each other, however, that they did exchange a few more letters in 1922 and 1923 (and Kafka turned over to Jesenská his diaries at the end of his life). Kafka is regarded by critics as one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. It is generally agreed that Kafka suffered from clinical depression and social anxiety throughout his entire life. (Source: Wiki)
Source: Journal of a Nobody
Good Wednesday morning. Here we go on my ride of inspiring posts of the week:
Good Thursday morning. Here we go on my ride of inspiring posts of the week:
Good Wednesday morning. Inspiring posts were gushing over the dam this week. Here we go on my ride of inspiring posts of the week:
Good Wednesday morning. I’ve been on a siesta the last few weeks with my inspiring posts of the week. We’re back.
Kurt Harden @ Cultural Offering with his post titled You Sir at Pump 16…. I watched this clip three times. Susan watched it. The kids watched it. We all loved it. Do yourself a favor and start your day with a smile. Hit this link.
Rian @ Truth and Cake with her post Forget The Blueprint, Ride the Mechanical Bull: “…Often, we’re so hellbent on getting it right that we miss the point entirely. The right career, the right school, the right spouse, the right restaurant, the movie with the good reviews, wearing the right outfit and snagging that just right opportunity and hopefully doing something really meaningful and perfect with our lives: these things obsess us. I can look back on a (very large) handful of times in my life when I was given an amazing opportunity or experiencing something really great that, in retrospect, I stressed way too much over. Will I blow this? Will it work out? Where’s the next opportunity going to come from? What if people think I’m crazy?…Read more of this great post from a Freshly Pressed Blogger @ this link.
Seventhvoice with her post A Childless Mother, Is still A Mother. Though her arms may be empty… her heart never will: “Mother’s Day has always been an incredibly difficult day for me. Filled as it is with mixed emotions but not for the reasons you might think. It’s not a difficult day for me because I have a son with Autism or a daughter on the spectrum. In many ways their presence here helps to counteract the whirlpool of emotions that this day normally stirs up in me. Mother’s day is hard for me because I am, or at least I would have been, had everything gone to plan, the mother of seven children. You see, four of my lovely ones never made it kicking and screaming into the light of this world…” Read more of this moving post @ this link.
“During his most fertile years, from the late 1920s through the early ’40s, Faulkner worked at an astonishing pace, often completing three thousand words a day and occasionally twice that amount. (He once wrote to his mother that he had managed ten thousand words in one day, working between 10: 00 A.M. and midnight— a personal record.) ‘I write when the spirit moves me,’ Faulkner said, ‘and the spirit moves me every day.’”
~ Mason Currey on William Faulkner’s work ethic
William Cuthbert Faulkner (1897 – 1962), was an American writer and Nobel Prize laureate from Oxford, Mississippi. Though his work was published as early as 1919, and largely during the 1920s and 1930s, Faulkner was relatively unknown until receiving the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature. Two of his works, A Fable (1954) and his last novel The Reivers (1962), won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In 1998, the Modern Library ranked his 1929 novel The Sound and the Fury sixth on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century; also on the list were As I Lay Dying (1930) and Light in August (1932).
As a schoolchild, Faulkner had much success early on. He excelled in the first grade, skipped the second, and continued doing well through the third and fourth grades. However, beginning somewhere in the fourth and fifth grades of his schooling, Faulkner became a much more quiet and withdrawn child. He began to play hooky occasionally and became somewhat indifferent to his schoolwork, even though he began to study the history of Mississippi on his own time in the seventh grade. The decline of his performance in school continued and Faulkner wound up repeating the eleventh, and then final grade, and never graduating from high school. (Source: Wiki)
“Balzac drove himself relentlessly as a writer, motivated by enormous literary ambition as well as a never-ending string of creditors and endless cups of coffee; as Herbert J. Hunt has written, he engaged in “orgies of work punctuated by orgies of relaxation and pleasure.” When Balzac was working, his writing schedule was brutal: He ate a light dinner at 6:00 p.m., then went to bed. At 1:00 a.m. he rose and sat down at his writing table for a seven-hour stretch of work. At 8:00 a.m. he allowed himself a ninety-minute nap; then, from 9:30 to 4:00, he resumed work, drinking cup after cup of black coffee. (According to one estimate, he drank as many as fifty cups a day.) At 4:00 p.m. Balzac took a walk, had a bath, and received visitors until 6:00, when the cycle started all over again. “The days melt in my hands like ice in the sun,” he wrote in 1830. “I’m not living, I’m wearing myself out in a horrible fashion—but whether I die of work or something else, it’s all the same.”
— Balzac’s daily routine by Mason Currey from Daily Rituals: How Artists Work
Good Wednesday morning. Here are my selections of the inspiring posts of the week:
Jon-Mark Davey, South Florida Wildlife Photography kicks us off with his photograph of a orange butterfly shot at Rock Springs Park, Apopka, Florida. Check out one amazing shot after another at Jon-Mark’s site at this link.
Annabel Ruffell @ Journey For Earth with her post titled I am Enough: “But…Often in my life I have felt that I am not enough. I am not being a good enough mother, a good enough friend, a good enough person…I am not doing enough, being enough, am just not enough…” Beautiful post. Read more at this link.
Bonnie @ Pagekeeper with a letter to her her son titled Not All At Once: “…You, growing up, is a long game and even though you and I both want it to all be ok for you right now, let’s both try to remember that you need to take your own time with things. I want you to know that everything I do is for you – so that things are better for you. So that your easy laugh and smiling eyes are always what people see first when they meet you...” Moved. Inspired by this post. Read more at this link.
Coach Bill Moore with his share in a To Run – A Prayer for Boston: “I will take you…on in the street…Every breath of mine…I will consume your hate…I will run straight into you…as if you were a finish line of joy…picking up the fallen…along the way…you will never stop me.” Wonderful. Read full poem by Scott Poole at this link.
Source: Thank you Jessica Hagy
A post by Amanda Patterson on Rudyard Kipling triggered a stream of thoughts this morning. Kipling was born yesterday in 1865. I couldn’t recall ever reading anything by Kipling but I’ve certainly heard of him. (DK. Mr. Contemporary. Always looking forward. Never much for history. Not much for looking back. What possibly could I learn from a life 100+ years ago? PAST IS PAST.)
Kipling, “born in India, was sent to England to live with a foster family and receive a formal British education at the age of 6. These were hard years for Kipling. His Foster mother was a brutal woman, who quickly grew to despise her young foster son. She beat and bullied Kipling, who also struggled to fit in at school. Kipling’s solace came in books and stories. With few friends, he devoted himself to reading. By the age of 11, Kipling was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. A visitor to his home saw his condition and immediately contacted his mother, who rushed back to England and rescued her son from the Holloways.”
Yet, here’s a man who survived this childhood and flourished. He said:
Small miseries, like small debts, hit us in so many places, and meet us at so many turns and corners, that what they want in weight, they make up in number, and render it less hazardous to stand the fire of one cannon ball, than a volley composed of such a shower of bullets.
I always prefer to believe the best of everybody, it saves so much trouble.
This is a brief life, but in its brevity it offers us some splendid moments, some meaningful adventures.
And a man, who produced this poem in 1895:
The path to excellence. Study the best in the field. Develop lifelong habits. Continuously revise and improve. (Kaizen.) Practice. Have a critical eye with your own work. Be sure to focus on the process as it is as important as the output. Pursue your field of passion despite the views of your critics. There are no shortcuts to excellence – it takes incredible focus and effort. Same old, same old? Yes. It worked for Matisse. And it will work for you and me.
Henri Matisse (1869-1954), along with Picasso and Duchamp, was regarded as one of three artists who helped define art and sculpture in the 20th century. There is a Matisse show on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art until March 17th, 2013. There is an exceptional review of the show in wsj.com titled The Relentless Reviser. Below I share excerpts from the review that are applicable to many of us in our fields: [Read more...]
My importance to the world is relatively small. On the other hand, my importance to myself is tremendous. I am all I have to work with, to play with, to suffer and to enjoy. It is not the eyes of others that I am wary of, but of my own. I do not intend to let myself down more than I can possibly help, and I find that the fewer illusions I have about myself or the world around me, the better company I am for myself.
~ Noël Coward
Happy Birthday, Noël Coward, who was born on this day in 1899. In his bio, he is defined as having “virtually invented the concept of Englishness for the 20th century. An astounding polymath – dramatist, actor, writer, composer, lyricist, painter, and wit — he was defined by his Englishness as much as he defined it. He was indeed the first Brit pop star, the first ambassador of ‘cool Britannia.’…Coward was on stage by the age of six, and writing his first drama ten years later…His between-the-wars celebrity reached a peak in 1930 with “Private Lives,” by which time he had become the highest earning author in the western world…Since his death in 1973, his reputation has grown. There is never a point at which his plays are not being performed, or his songs being sung. A playwright, director, actor, songwriter, filmmaker, novelist, wit . . . was there nothing this man couldn’t do?”
Noel Coward: Top 10 quotes
Thank you to my friends for nominating me for this award: Carolyn @ abcofspiritalk, Sandy @ Another Lovely Day, Cristi @ Simple.Interesting, Dogdaz, Ivon @ Teacher is Transformer, Joyat60, Kalabalu, Kim @ Tranquil Dreams, Melody @ Donkey Whisperer Farm Blog, Misifusa, Renee @ Rendezvous With Renee, SarahPotterWrites, Tarasai @ Writerfield and Iamforchange. I’ve been procrastinating in “paying it forward”…for fear of leaving out and disappointing so many exceptional bloggers that I follow. (Anxiety remains.) Yet, Renee’s words (subtle that they are…sarcasm dripping) have been ringing in my head: “Just pay it forward, Dave.” So here we go…
Bryce Courtenay died yesterday. He was the author of one of my favorite books: The Power of One. The Guardian writes the following about Courtenay: He was born into poverty in South Africa and studied journalism in London. He started writing late in life after a 30-year career in advertising. He was known for his dedication to work and prolific output, often writing for 12 hours a day and usually producing one new book at year. This short < 1 minute clip was produced by Courtenay a few days ago before he died. Take a moment and watch…it is inspiring and moving.
And here are two of my favorite passages from “The Power of One“: [Read more...]
“Reading was my escape and my comfort, my consolation, my stimulant of choice: reading for the pure pleasure of it, for the beautiful stillness that surrounds you when you hear an author’s words reverberating in your head.”
~ Paul Auster
“The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.”
~ Ernest Hemingway
This about nails it…
Author: Margaret Atwood
Source: Teaching Literacy
Related Posts: What touches you is what you touch…
“Sift the debris of a young writer’s education, and you find dreadful things — strictures, prohibitions, dos, don’ts, an unnatural and nearly neurotic obsession with style, argument and transition. Yet in that debris you find no traces of a fundamental question: where do sentences come from? This is a philosophical question, as valuable in the asking as in the answering. But it’s a practical question, too. Think about it long enough, and you begin to realize that many, if not most, of the things we believe about writing are false…”
Rule No. 1: Show and Tell.
Rule No. 2: Don’t go searching for a subject, let your subject find you. You can’t rush inspiration…you can’t force it. Once your subject finds you, it’s like falling in love. It will be your constant companion…Your ideal subject should be like a stalker with limitless resources…
Rule No. 3: Write what you know…listen to your heart. Ask your heart, Is it true? And if it is, let it be. Once the lawyers sign off, you’re good to go…
Rule No. 4: Never use three words when one will do. Be concise. Don’t fall in love with the gentle trilling of your mellifluous sentences…
Nora Ephron (May 19, 1941 – June 26, 2012) “was an American journalist, screenwriter, novelist, producer, director and blogger. She was best known for her nominations for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle.” More than 800 celebrated her memorial at the Lincoln Center yesterday. R.I.P. Nora…
From the HBR Blog Network: Happiness Will Not Be Downloaded. I draw the line on a solve being fixing things yourself otherwise a great post. A few excerpts from the post below along with the charts for the 10 Most Loved Jobs and the 10 Most Hated…
“…The proliferation of cooking shows, blogs, celebrity chefs…taps into something more primal: it’s one of the last jobs that still does what most of us don’t — make things…In this sterile, white-collar world, where meat comes from ShopRite and homes are built by “guest workers,” cooking is the last physical job many of us can relate to.”
Ray Bradbury, 91, died on Tuesday. Bradbury, a celebrated fiction writer, is best known for Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles & The Illustrated Man. Brain Pickings had a terrific post on a speech he gave at a writer’s symposium. While his speech was directed to writers, there is an important message here for all of us. A few choice excerpts:
…Writing is not a serious business. It’s a joy and a celebration. You should be having fun with it…It’s not work. If it’s work, stop and do something else…
…People are always saying “Well, what do we do about a sudden blockage in your writing?…You’re being warned…Your subconscious is saying “I don’t like you anymore. You’re writing about things I don’t give a damn for”.
…I’ve never worked a day in my life…The joy of writing has propelled me from day to day and year to year. I want you to envy me, my joy. Get out of here tonight and say: “Am I being joyful?” And if you’ve got a writer’s block, you can cure it this evening by stopping whatever you’re writing and doing something else. You picked the wrong subject.
Ray Bradbury (August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012)
If you are interested in a personal perspective on Bradbury, check out Christian Fahey’s post at The Upside: Ray Bradbury: An Appreciation