Starting Over

Discovering myself, my family and friends in a foreign land, second time around

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About books

What-Now-3dI 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.

About life:

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.



What a writer needs

textures-mixed-inks-flowing-water-abstract-free-stock-photoIn a compilation of thoughts by writers on the topic of “Why we write” Walter Mosley said the reason writers write is for “ the mysterious heart – Readers no longer need novelists to tell us what its like to cross the world on a ship or fight a war. In the twenty-first century, we get that information in other ways. The thing that’s still a mystery to us is the human heart. What we want is to understand people, what they’re doing, and why they’re doing it.”

But writing has few moments that seem like rewards and many more that cause anxiety if not heartbreak. On days like these, I choose to dwell on Elizabeth Gilbert’s words that “The more important virtue for a writer, I believe, is self-forgiveness.”

In a spirit of self-forgiveness, here are my thoughts for today

“What a writer needs”

A present for context and a past for perspective

A family for support and for material

Books to read and something to write on

Time to think and space to create

Friends to encourage and critics to challenge

An interesting life and an enquiring mind

An ear for stories and a strong voice

A love for language and a reason to write