I have always been amazed by commencement speeches made by famous people at colleges all across America. Amazed because they are personal and inspirational, but also because they are crafted so well. Many cover similar themes. Most sound unique. The best ones are by writers I admire.
How wonderful to live the life of a writer, utterly convinced from a young age that the purpose of your life is to write. When words arise from a deep sense of commitment to a goal, they have depth and provide insight. Writers use words to give shape to their thoughts and the writing life gives meaning to their words. Words then, are not just what they use to make a living, but make a life.
In “What now” the speech by Ann Patchett at Sarah Lawrence college, there are several themes that resonate with me.
Just because things hadn’t gone the way I had planned didn’t necessarily mean they had gone wrong.”
About the past and present:
Coming back is the thing that enables you to see how all the dots in your life are connected, how one decision leads you another, how one twist of fate, good or bad, brings you to a door that later takes you to another door, which aided by several detours–long hallways and unforeseen stairwells–eventually puts you in the place you are now.”
About the future and how we can always dream of doing more, doing better:
“What now is not just a panic-stricken question tossed into a dark unknown. What now can also be our joy. It is a declaration of possibility, of promise, of chance. It acknowledges that our future is open, that we may well do more than anyone expected of us, that at every point in our development we are still striving to grow.”
One statement that Ann has made about writing that reassures me as an amateur writer is
“Only a few of us are going to be willing to break our own hearts by trading in the living beauty of imagination for the stark disappointment of words.
Such is the life of a true writer.