Words I Needed Last Week 8/1
Going to work with great freedom and boldness.
A collection of sentences that stopped me in my tracks last week. On craft vs. talent, wisdom, writing, and imagination.
Problems call forth our courage and wisdom; indeed, they create our courage and wisdom.
—Scott Peck, “The Road Less Traveled”
Everything we do has a result. But that which is right and prudent does not always lead to good, nor the contrary to what is bad; frequently the reverse takes place….if I had not made that very mistake, I should have made a greater one. Such instances occur frequently in life; and hence we see men of the world, who know this, going to work with great freedom and boldness.
—Goethe, “Conversations of Goethe”
We think we understand the rules when we become adults, but what we really experience is a narrowing of the imagination.
During these spirals, my previous successes don’t matter. In fact, I think no matter how many books I write, courses I teach, or subscribers I have at The Reading, I will always be starting over with myself. The sirens will blare their drones over my desk and try to pluck me from my seat. Their refrain nowadays is that my money and time are running out. There’s always the days they succeed and I will fly into the waves, again, for jobs and grants.
But days are better than years. There were the years I spent studying computer science and then working in tech, telling myself I would write when I had time. There were the years I spent loving other people, telling myself I would write when I had found a new family. And there were the years when I was never alone, telling myself nothing, because I was afraid of hearing what I had to say.
Today I am remembering that Linda Gregg used to call thrifting the last great treasure hunt: today that is how I feel about writing. And what I’m searching for, what I really want, is writing that reminds me that I’m alive. Writing that presses time and space past my singular body. Writing that tells me that at the same moment I’m breathing, you are breathing; that there are organisms alive I have never heard of; cities I have never truly understood; kinds of love that requires years upon years of accumulation.
—Yanyi, “The Reading”
“You know what I do? I listen to other people, stumbling about with their half-thoughts and half-sentences and their clumsy feelings that they can't express, and it hurts me. So I go home and burnish it and polish it and weld it to a rhythmic frame, make the dull colors gleam, mute the garish artificiality to pastels, so it doesn't hurt anymore: that's my poem. I know what they want to say, and I say it for them.”
—Samuel R. Delany, “Babel-17”
No one, including you, knows how much talent you have until you develop the techniques that give your talent a way to flow. Craft gives you control, and gaining control of your talent will give you the courage to trust your instincts. Every time you do an exercise—without judgment and for its own sake—you will be developing instincts and confidence. You will be encouraged. And courage is what you need to pursue writing.
—Ellen Sandler, “The TV Writer’s Workbook”