American Novelist and Non-Fiction Writer
American Novelist and Non-Fiction Writer
You don't always have to chop with the sword of truth. You can point with it too.
You stop pretending life is such fin or makes sense. It's often messy and cruel and dull, and we do the best we can. It's unfair, and jerks seem to win. But you fall in love with a few people.
Writing takes a combination of sophistication and innocence; it takes conscience, our belief that something is beautiful because it is right.
You don't even have to know how or in what way, but if you are writing the clearest, truest words you can find and doing the best you can to understand and communicate, this will shine on paper like its own little lighthouse. Lighthouses don't go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.
You try to sit down at approximately the same time every day. This is how you train your unconscious to kick in for you creatively.
Yet union with a partner?someone with whom to wake, whom you love, and talk with on and off all day, and sit with at dinner, and watch TV and movies with, and read together in bed with, and do hard tasks with, and are loved by. That sounds really lovely.
You don't want to spend your time around people who make you hold your breath. You can't fill up when you're holding your breath. And writing is about filling up, filling up when you are empty, letting images and ideas and smells run down like water - just as writing is also about dealing with the emptiness.
You want to avoid at all costs drawing your characters on those that already exist in other works of fiction. You must learn about people from people, not from what you read. Your reading should confirm what you?ve observed in the world.
Yet, I get to tell my truth. I get to seek meaning and realization. I get to live fully, wildly, imperfectly. That's why I'm alive. And all I actually have to offer as a writer, is my version of life. Every single thing that has happened to me is mine. As I've said a hundred times, if people wanted me to write more warmly about them, they should have behaved better.
You get your confidence and intuition back by trusting yourself, by being militantly on your own side. You need to trust yourself, especially on a first draft, where amid the anxiety and self-doubt, there should be a real sense of your imagination and your memories walking and woolgathering, tramping the hills, romping all over the place. Trust them. Don't look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance.
You want to protect your child from pain, and what you get instead is life, and grace; and though theologians insist that grace is freely given, the truth is that sometimes you pay for it through the nose. And you can't pay your child's way.
You are going to feel like hell if you never write the stuff that is tugging on the sleeves in your heart--your stories, visions, memories, songs: your truth, your version of things, in your voice. That is really all you have to offer us, and it's why you were born.
You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind. The rational mind doesn?t nourish you. You assume that it gives you the truth, because the rational mind is the golden calf that this culture worships, but this is not true. Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating.
You were loved because God loves, period. God loved you, and everyone, not because you believed in certain things, but because you were a mess, and lonely, and His or Her child. God loved you no matter how crazy you felt on the inside, no matter what a fake you were; always, even in your current condition, even before coffee. God loves you crazily, like I love you...like a slightly overweight auntie, who sees only your marvelousness and need.
You are going to love some of your characters, because they are you or some facet of you, and you are going to hate some of your characters for the same reason. But no matter what, you are probably going to have to let bad things happen to some of the characters you love or you won't have much of a story. Bad things happen to good characters, because our actions have consequences, and we do not all behave perfectly all the time.
You have to be a warrior and say, Maybe it's everyone else's system, but it's not mine. (from her recent interview here, on Goodreads)
You will go through your life thinking there was a day in second grade that you must have missed, when the grown-ups came in and explained, everything important to other kids. they said, 'Look, you're human, you're going to feel isolated and afraid a lot of the time, nad have bad self-esteem, and feel uniquely ruined, but here is the magic phrase that will take this feeling away. It will be like a feather that will lift you out of that fear and self-consciousness every single time, all through your life.' And then they told the cildren who were there that day the magic phrase that everyone else in the world knows about and uses when feeling blue, which only you don't know, because you were home sick the day the grown-ups told the children the way the whole world works. But there was not such a day in school. No one got the instructions. That is the secret of life. Everyone is flailing around, winging it most of the time, trying to find the way out, or through, or up, without a map. This lack of instruction manual is how most people develop compassion, and how they figure out to show up, care, help and serve, as the only way of filling up and being free. Otherwise you gorw up to be someone who needs to dominate and shame others so no one will know that you weren't there the day the instructions were passed out.
You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander. We build this place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible. So part of us believes that when the tide starts coming in, we won't really have lost anything, because actually only a symbol of it was there in the sand. Another part of us thinks we'll figure out a way to divert the ocean. This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won't wash them away. I think this is a wonderful kind of person to be.
You have to be grateful whenever you get to someplace safe and okay, even if it turns out it wasn?t quite where you were heading. The light you see when people are in the tunnel of deep trouble is domestic flashes of recognition and kitchen comforts, not Blake?s radiance, which would be my preference.
You will lose someone you can?t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn?t seal back up. And you come through. It?s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly?that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.
you begin to notice all the props surrounding these people, and you begin to understand how props define us and comfort us, and show us what we value and what we need, and who we think we are.
You have to keep taking the next necessary stitch, and the next one, and the next. Without stitches, you just have rags. And we are not rags.
Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you're going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.
You begin to string words together like beads to tell a story. You are desperate to communicate, to edify or entertain, to preserve moments of grace or joy or transcendence, to make real or imagined events come alive. But you cannot will this to happen. It is a matter of persistence and faith and hard work. So you might as well just go ahead and get started.
You have to make mistakes to find out who you aren't. You take the action, and the insight follows: You don't think your way into becoming yourself.