this blog is my boat, these words are my oars, and there’s a storm in the distance that will take them all apart. i will be fine. if i can’t find a piece of a word to hold me up, and in truth that’s asking a lot of some vowels and consonants – not their job, after all – i will float on my back, face against the rain. it won’t last forever. the boat may sink, but that has nothing to do with me. i am free. gone with the rain.
Read more by Josh Bernoff: 10 top writing tips and the psychology behind them
Why is it that we understand playing the cello will require work, but we attribute writing to the magic of inspiration? Chances are, any child who stays with an instrument for more than two weeks has some adult making her practice, and any child who sticks with it longer than that does so because she understands that practice makes her play better and that there is a deep, soul-satisfying pleasure in improvement. If a person of any age picked up the cello for the first time and said, “I’ll be playing in Carnegie Hall next month!” you would pity their delusion, yet beginning fiction writers all across the country polish up their best efforts and send them off to The New Yorker. Perhaps you’re thinking here that playing an instrument is not an art itself but an interpretation of the composer’s art, but I stand by my metaphor. The art of writing comes way down the line, as does the art of interpreting Bach. Art stands on the shoulders of craft, which means that to get to the art you must master the craft. If you want to write, practice writing. Practice it for hours a day, not to come up with a story you can publish, but because you long to learn how to write well, because there is something that you alone can say. Write the story, learn from it, put it away, write another story. Think of a sink pipe filled with sticky sediment. The only way to get clean water is to force a small ocean through the tap. Most of us are full up with bad stories, boring stories, self-indulgent stories, searing works of unendurable melodrama. We must get all of them out of our system in order to find the good stories that may or may not exist in the freshwater underneath. […]
Does this sound like a lot of work without any guarantee of success? Well, yes, but it also calls into question our definition of success. Playing the cello, we’re more likely to realize that the pleasure is the practice, the ability to create this beautiful sound; not to do it as well as Yo-Yo Ma, but still, to touch the hem of the gown that is art itself… I got better at closing the gap between my hand and my head by clocking in the hours, stacking up the pages. Somewhere in all my years of practice, I don’t know where exactly, I arrived at the art. […]
Forgiveness. The ability to forgive oneself. Stop here for a few breaths and think about this because it is the key to making art, and very possibly the key to finding any semblance of happiness in life. […]
I believe, more than anything, that this grief of constantly having to face down our own inadequacies is what keeps people from being writers. Forgiveness, therefore, is key. I can’t write the book I want to write, but I can and will write the book I am capable of writing. Again and again throughout the course of my life I will forgive myself.
~ Ann Patchett. This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, Harper Perennial, 2014)
You start with a wisp of memory, or some detail that won’t let you be. You write, you cross out. You write again, revise, feel like giving up. What pulls you through? Curiosity.
~ Abigail Thomas, What Comes Next and How to Like It: A Memoir
It’s an all-night dance at The Alibi.
The strobes, the churning, my personal whitewater at the base of a long spillway of a hydroelectric dam.
I pull the left shoulder back and tug it hard to roll away from a throbbing right, and then settle heavily on the left. A desperate search for comfort.
A handless re-positioning of the knee pillow, a defensive moat shielding bone on bone impact, a life-to-date action now into the tens of thousands. And counting.
Voices drift into the dreamless oblivion. The unreal is more powerful than the real…Stone crumbles. Wood rots…But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on.¹
A chill, a pulling up of the covers, and the play repeats.
Left shoulder pull
Right shoulder roll
Right knee tuck
Left knee slide
They can go on and on…
They say this far and not further
They draw lines and call it the limit
They tell you dreamers can’t be doers
And that every Road has been walked before
But when it is what every fibre of your being craves
When it is your all
Your Morning, Your Noon, and Night
When it is what frustrates you
And rewards you
When it is what you fight for
What you lose sleep and sometimes your mind for
When it is the very fire within you
When it is your greatest strength
And your one weakness
When it born not of need
Not even of desire
But of raw passion
How can it ever be enough?
How can there ever be an end?
They say the sky is the limit
Little do they know
You don’t stop at the limit
You start from it.
Born of Passion
SMWI* = Saturday Morning Work-Out Inspiration
You wake up this morning. You may be a bit stiff from your work-out yesterday. Or still recovering from your long work week. But you can and do get up and get on with your morning.
The first thing you have to get used to is total helplessness. You’re dependent on somebody else for everything. If you want your ear scratched, you have to ask. You soon learn that you can’t ask every time the problem arises, or you’d be asking the whole day. And you remember all too vividly the itch that assailed you in the middle of the night before last, the one that wasn’t worth waking somebody up to relieve.
You grab your cup of coffee and your book. Or the morning paper. You turn the pages.
Another personal loss, for me, is books. The act of writing has been distorted, yes, but not as much as the act of reading, which was always a solitary pleasure. Since somebody else has to turn the pages, the solitude is over. Few works that I want to read are available as audiobooks. The alternative, of my not being able to read at all if there’s mental degeneration, is horrific.
Q: Where do you find an invalid? A: Where you left him. His words. So much truth, so much spirit.
I’ve been immobilized for five years. In addition to losing incalculable personal pleasures, like daily walks with my wife, I also lost a musical career as a jazz and classical guitarist, though I still teach a few advanced students. I published several books of fiction and nonfiction before the disease hit, but my days of roaming the world as a journalist are over. Now I write by dictation. […]
You find yourself, unavoidably, living in the past. Happiness isn’t is, but was. You try not to contemplate the future too much. Nor the future of the person you love.
Find his bio and web page here: AnthonyWeller.com
Photo credit: weheartit.com
K.M. Chaudary, Associated Press. Photos of the Day, April 1, 2015 wsj.com
The dirt resists you. It is very hard to make the earth your own. I’ve done much less to try to make it mine. All my association with it is a kind of freedom. Yet it’s hard to live at the ranch. When I first came here I had to go 70 miles on a dirt road for supplies. Nobody would go by in two weeks. I thought the ranch would be good for me because nothing can grow here and I wouldn’t be able to use up my time gardening. But I got tired of canned vegetables so now I grow everything I need for the year at Abiquiu. I like to get up when the dawn comes. The dogs start talking to me and I like to make a fire and maybe some tea and then sit in bed and watch the sun come up. The morning is the best time, there are no people around. My pleasant disposition likes the world with nobody in it.
~ Georgia O’Keeffe
The process of writing poems felt like a reprieve. Concentrating so intensely on one word and then another and another took me away; so far away, in fact, that sometimes after I finished a poem, I’d sit up at my desk, a bit dizzy. It’d been a blur. What a gift: being able to disappear without going anywhere at all.
~ Saeed Jones, A Poet’s Boyhood at the Burning Crossroads
Saeed Jones was born in Memphis, TN and raised in Lewisville, Texas. He received his MFA in Creative Writing at Rutgers University – Newark. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Western Kentucky University where he won the Jim Wayne Miller Award for Poetry. Recently, his poems “Body & Kentucky Bourbon” and “After the First Shot” were nominated for Pushcart Prizes. His chapbook When the Only Light is Fire is available from Sibling Rivalry Press. He has studied with writers like Tom Hunley, Dale Rigby, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Rachel Hadas, and Tayari Jones. He currently lives and writes in New York City. (Source: For Southern Boy Who Consider Poetry)
The proper way
to thank someone is:
a note written by hand.
To me, that’s special.
And I write spontaneously —
not too thought out.
Maybe it will just be the person’s name
and three words
I feel in the moment.
~ Alessandro Sartori, Berluti Menswear Designer in 20 Odd Questions
Image Source: sallymankus.com