From Mary Oliver’s poem “Sometimes.”
original image: Cannadian Horseshoe Falls by Robin Lee
“You ask whether I should continue to write if no one but myself would ever see my work. There is no reason to believe that anyone will ever see any more of my work…We are likely to give many incorrect explanations for what we do instinctively. It is very easy for me to say that I write poetry in order to formulate my ideas and to relate myself to the world. That is why I think I write it, though it may not be the right reason. That being so, I think that I should continue to write poetry whether or not anybody ever saw it, and certainly I write lots of it that nobody ever sees. We are all busy thinking things that nobody ever knows about.”-–Wallace Stevens in a letter to editor Ronald Lane Latimer, from Letters of Wallace Stevens
We write because it’s what we do. We don’t write because it’s going to be published or win awards or get a million reviews. We write because we’re writers.
“I don’t even know who a character is until I’ve seen how they handle adversity.”
I’m reading Rising Strong by Brené Brown right now, and she includes this quote from an interview she had with writer/producer Shonda Rhimes. Brown uses this quote to talk about how we all deal with adversity and how it can demonstrate who we are, but I think this is also a great quote for writers to keep in mind. We don’t know a character until we see them face a major challenge–and this is when the story has to start. It’s gotta be on the day when everything changes for them, when they face the biggest challenge of their lives. Otherwise, how do we really know them?
When do you feel like you really know your characters? Share in the comments!
“You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures.”—Elizabeth Gilbert
I recently read Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, which was just the book I needed. And I’ve been talking with friends in the arts recently about our fears and frustrations, and how success always seems so much easier for other people to achieve.
Gilbert’s quote above is a nice reminder that you can’t measure success by how many awards you win or how much you make on an advance or how many reviews you get, because no matter how many awards or how much money you get, you’re still not going to feel like a success . The work itself has to be the thing that keeps you moving down the path.
“…have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”–Rainer Maria Rilke, from Letters to a Young Poet
Here’s to productivity and a warm cup of coffee on a chilly Monday. Thanks to our friends at the Little Crooked Cottage for sharing this one!
Since we’re in Jewish Book Month, it feels right to share another great poem from The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492 by Peter Cole (translator). This one is by Meshullam DePiera, who was writing in the thirteenth century.
I love the intensity here–it makes me feel both cautious and powerful. Words matter, people.
I love this illustration by Debbie Ridpath Ohi. The quote by Madeleine L’Engle seems particularly apt for Banned Books Week, as her most famous book, A Wrinkle in Time has been on banned and challenged book lists since its publication in the 1960s.
Debbie has lots of other awesome illustrations available for sharing and printing. Make sure to check out her great work and share your enthusiasm for reading!
From “The Battle of The Pen and the Scissors” by Shem Tov Ardutiel (Santob de Carrión):
I recently read The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492 by Peter Cole (translator) and I loved coming across poems about the act of writing. Like in the one above, even though they were written literally hundreds of years ago, it was so cool to see how writers face the same frustrations and challenges.
So take it from Shem Tov Ardutiel–tomorrow’s writing doesn’t matter today. Focus on getting the work done now.