American Novelist and Non-Fiction Writer
American Novelist and Non-Fiction Writer
Writing can be a pretty desperate endeavor, because it is about some of our deepest needs: our need to be visible, to be heard, our need to make sense of our lives, to wake up and grow and belong.
It may be one of those miracles where your heart sinks, because you think it means you have lost. But in surrender you have won. And if it were me, after a moment, I would say, Thanks.
It's incredibly touching when someone who seems so hopeless finds a few inches of light to stand in and makes everything work as well as possible. All of us lurch and fall, sit in the dirt, are helped to our feet, keep moving, feel like idiots, lose our balance, gain it, help others get back on their feet, and keep going.
Laughter is deliverance, bubbly salvation.
Look at us, he said. His speech was difficult to understand, thick and slow as a warped record. His two friends in the picture had Down?s syndrome. All three of them looked extremely pleased with themselves. I admired the picture and then handed it back to him. He stopped, so I stopped, too. He pointed to his own image. That, he said, is one cool man.
Mine was a patchwork God, sewn together from bits of rag and ribbon, Eastern and Western, pagan and Hebrew, everything but the kitchen sink and Jesus.
My mind kept thinking its harsh thinky thoughts, but I would distract myself from them gently and say, 'Those are not the truth, those are not trustworthy, those are for entertainment purposes only.' Eventually I had quieter thoughts.
Novels ought to have hope; at least, American novels ought to have hope. French novels don't need to. We mostly win wars, they lose them. Of course, they did hide more Jews than many other countries, and this is a form of winning.
one thing about having a baby is that each step of the way you simply cannot imagine loving him any more than you already do, because you are bursting with love, loving as much as you are humanly capable of- and then you do, you love him even more.
Perfectionism is one way our muscles cramp. In some cases we don't even know that the wounds and the cramping are there, but both limit us. They keep us moving and writing in tight, worried ways.
Redefinition is a nightmare?we think we?ve arrived, in our nice Pottery Barn boxes, and that this or that is true. Then something happens that totally sucks, and we are in a new box, and it is like changing into clothes that don?t fit, that we hate. Yet the essence remains. Essence is malleable, fluid. Everything we lose is Buddhist truth?one more thing that you don?t have to grab with your death grip, and protect from theft or decay. It?s gone. We can mourn it, but we don?t have to get down in the grave with it.
Seeing yourself in print is such an amazing concept: you can get so much attention without having to actually show up somewhere. While others who have something to say or who want to be effectual, like musicians or baseball players or politicians, have to get out there in front of people, writers, who tend to be shy, get to stay home and still be public.
So what are we supposed to do again, when we hate everything? You stop pretending life is such fun 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. Like I love you, Elizabeth. You're the angel God sent me.
Start with your childhood, I tell them. Plug your nose and jump in, and write down all your memories as truthfully as you can.
The depth of the feeling continued to surprise and threaten me, but each time it hit again and I bore it... I would discover that it hadn't washed me away.
The search for meaning will fill you with a sense of meaning. Otherwise
Then it came to me: I was asking the wrong question. The right one is: Where is God in gang warfare? And the answer is, The same place God is in Darfur, and in our alcoholism, and when children are bullied: being crucified.
There?s freedom in hitting bottom, in seeing that you won?t be able to save or rescue your daughter, her spouse, his parents, or your career, relief in admitting you?ve reached the place of great unknowing. This is where restoration can begin, because when you?re still in the state of trying to fix the unfixable, everything bad is engaged: the chatter of your mind, the tension of your physiology, all the trunks and wheel-ons you carry from the past. It?s exhausting, crazy-making.
This family business can be so stressful - difficult, damaged people showing up t spend time with other difficult, damaged people.
To be a good writer, you not only have to write a great deal but you have to care. You do not have to have a complicated moral philosophy. But a writer always tries, I think, to be a part of a solution, to understand a little about life and to pass this on.
Usually if you pray from the heart, you get an answer?the phone rings or the mail comes, and light gets in through the cracks, so you can see the next right thing to do. That?s all you need.
We live stitch by stitch, when we?re lucky. If you fixate on the big picture, the whole shebang, the overview, you miss the stitching. And maybe the stitching is crude, or it is unraveling, but if it were precise, we?d pretend that life was just fine and running like a Swiss watch. This is not helpful if on the inside our understanding is that life is more often a cuckoo clock with rusty gears. In the aftermath of loss, we do what we?ve always done, although we are changed, maybe more afraid. We do what we can, as well as we can. My pastor, Veronica, one Sunday told the story of a sparrow lying in the street with its legs straight up in the air, sweating a little under its feathery arms. A warhorse walks up to the bird and asks, What on earth are you doing? The sparrow replies, I heard the sky was falling, and I wanted to help. The horse laughs a big, loud, sneering horse laugh, and says, Do you really think you?re going to hold back the sky, with those scrawny little legs? And the sparrow says, One does what one can.
We're all afraid of the same stuff. Mostly we're afraid that we're secretly not okay, that we're disgusting, or frauds, or about to be diagnosed with cancer. ... We want to teach you how to quiet the yammer ... how you can create comfort, inside and outside, how you can get warm, how you can feed yourself. And even learn to get through silence. ... There is a wilderness inside you, and a banquet. Both.
When a lot of things start going wrong all at once, it is to protect something big and lovely that is trying to get itself born?and that this something needs for you to be distracted so that it can be born as perfectly as possible.
When we think we can do it all ourselves--fix, save, buy, or date a nice solution--it's hopeless. We're going to screw things up. We're going to get our tentacles wrapped around things and squirt our squiddy ink all over, so that there is even less visibility, and then we're going to squeeze the very life out of everything.