American Novelist and Non-Fiction Writer
American Novelist and Non-Fiction Writer
Lighthouses don?t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.
Maybe what you care most passionately about are fasting and high colonics--cappuccino enemas, say. This is fine, but we do not want you to write about them; we will secretly believe that you are simply spiritualizing your hysteria. There are millions of people already doing this at churches and New Age festivals across the land.
My friend Terry says that when you need to make a decision, in your work or otherwise, and you don?t know what to do, just do one thing or the other, because the worst that can happen is that you will have made a terrible mistake.
Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much. We do not think that she has a rich inner life or that God likes her or can even stand her. (Although when I mentioned this to my priest friend Tom, he said you can safely assume you?ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.)
One of the immutable laws of being human is that the people who show up are the right people.
Peace is joy at rest. Joy is peace on its feet.
publication is not all that it is cracked up to be. But writing is.
Sam was alternately distant and clingy and mean, because I am the primary person he banks on and bangs on. I stayed close enough so he could push me away. Sadie slowly floated off.
So a moral position is not a message. A moral position is a passionate caring inside you.
Sometimes love does not look like what you had in mind
The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.
The reason life works at all is that not everyone in your tribe is nuts on the same day.
The whole game in the fifties and early sixties was for no one to know who you really were. We children were witness to the total pretense of how our parents wanted the world to see them. We helped them maintain this image, because if anyone outside the family could see who they really were deep down, the whole system, the ship of your family, might sink. We held our breath to give the ship buoyancy. We were little air tanks.
There may be a Nurse Ratched-like listing of things that must be done right this moment: foods that must come out of the freezer, appointments that must be canceled or made, hairs that must be tweezed. But you hold an imaginary gun to your head and make yourself stay at the desk.
They taught me that being of service, an ally to the lonely and suffering, a big-girl helper to underdogs, was my best shot at happiness. They taught me that most of my good ideas were not helpful, and that all of my ideas after ten p.m. were especially unhelpful. They taught me to pay attention, but not so much attention to my tiny princess mind.
This one truth, that the few people you adore will die, is plenty difficult to absorb. But on top of it, someone?s brakes fail, or someone pulls the trigger or snatches the kid, or someone deeply trusted succumbs to temptation, and everything falls apart. We are hurt beyond any reasonable chance of healing. We are haunted by our failures and mortality. And yet the world keeps on spinning, and in our grief, rage, and fear a few people keep on loving us and showing up. It?s all motion and stasis, change and stagnation. Awful stuff happens and beautiful stuff happens, and it?s all part of the big picture.
Try to write in a directly emotional way, instead of being too subtle or oblique. Don't be afraid of your material or your past. Be afraid of wasting any more time obsessing about how you look and how people see you. Be afraid of not getting your writing done.
We cheated, you and me, and someone noticed. I noticed you; someone else noticed me. It hurts us. That's not so bad. So many people cheat. Everywhere on every level. Everyone's cheated. I'm just saying that you don't need to see yourself as a cheater. Because that's not who you are. You're someone who cheated. There's a difference, and you should try to get that difference, or that's who you'll grow up to be.
We?re bugs struggling in the river, brightly visible to the trout below.
What you're looking for is already inside you. You've heard this before, but the holy thing inside you really is that which causes you to seek it. You can't buy it, lease it, rent it, date it, or apply for it. The best job in the world can't give it to you. Neither can succes, or fame, or financial security - besides which, there ain't no such thing.
When we agree to (or get tricked into) being part of something bigger than our own wired, fixated minds, we are saved. When we search for something larger than our own selves to hook into, we can come through whatever life throws at us.
Who as a young person, like me, accepted being alone quite a lot. I think that this sort of person often becomes either a writer or a career criminal.
Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. You don?t have to see where you?re going, you don?t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. 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.
It is most comfortable to be invisible, to observe life from a distance, at one with our own intoxicating superior thoughts. But comfort and isolation are not where the surprises are. They are not where hope is.
It's better to be kind than to be right.