American Novelist and Non-Fiction Writer
American Novelist and Non-Fiction Writer
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.
You're instantly in a bind once you arrive here on earth, of need, self-will, a body and a separate personality, even before the crippling self-consciousness kicks in, even before the seventh grade ... you're fucked at cell division... it's all downhill from there. After that, it's all survival, and trying to keep yourself either entertained or convinced that the things you're obsessed with are of any importance at all in the big scheme.
You can change the world with a hot bath, if you sink into it from a place of knowing that you are worth profound care, even when you?re dirty and rattled. Who knew?
You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, I have ever heard. So
You've got to learn to let go and let your children fall, and fail. If you try to protect them from hurt, and always rush to their side with Band-Aids, they won't learn about life, and what is true, what works, what helps, and what are real consequences of certain kinds of behavior. When they do get hurt, which they will, they won't know how to take care of their grown selves. They won't even know where the aspirin is kept.
You can either set brick as a laborer or as an artist. You can make the work a chore, or you can have a good time. You can do it the way you used to clear the dinner dishes when you were thirteen, or you can do it as a Japanese person would perform a tea ceremony, with a level of concentration and care in which you can lose yourself, and so in which you can find yourself.
You lose the known package of your nice organized self almost instantly here. Overeating is one way back, the way it is at funerals at home.
You've heard it said that when all else fails, follow instructions. So we breathe, try to slow down and pay attention, try to love and help God's other children, and - hardest of all, at least to me - learn to love our depressing, hilarious, mostly decent selves. We get thirsty people water, read to the very young and old, and listen to the sad. We pick up litter and try to leave the world a slightly better place for our stay here. Those are the basic instructions, to which I can add only: Amen.
You can get the monkey off your back, but the circus never leaves town
You may have gotten into the habit of doubting that voice that was telling you quite clearly what was really going on. It is essential you get that back.
You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.
You must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you're a writer, you have a moral obligation to do this.
You can tell if people are following Jesus, because they are feeding the poor, sharing their wealth, and trying to get everyone medical insurance.
You need to find people who laugh gently at themselves, who remind you gently to lighten up.
You can't find your true voice and peer behind the door and report honestly and clearly to us if your parents are reading over your shoulder. They are probably the ones who told you not to open that door in the first place. You can tell if you they're there because a small voice will say, 'Oh, whoops, don't say that, that's a secret,' or 'That's a bad work,' or 'Don't tell anyone you jack off. They'll all start doing it.' So you have to breathe or pray or do therapy to send them away. Write as if your parents are dead.
You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.
You celebrate what works and you take tender care of what doesn?t, with lotion, polish, and kindness.
You should not bring more items and hurdles to the obstacle course.
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.