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Great wisdom for every creative endeavor
on October 12, 2013
To be honest, I had never heard of Dani Shapiro before this book. I only found it through a post on Facebook that mentioned it. I will definitely be looking at the rest of her titles.
For me, this book serves as a reminder that despite the push toward science and mathematics in our schools today, creative endeavors in writing, art, etc. are still worthy. Not to say that those who love science or math aren't creative - they are. I remember speaking with a computer programmer once and he told me that he found what he did very creative. Often to those of us outside of a discipline, we don't see the draw of it.
What I enjoyed about the book was the prevailing lesson that you don't need to wait for The Big Idea before you sit down to write, to sculpt, or whatever your endeavor is. You just need to begin and the story, sculpture, picture will emerge. Shapiro also echoes what I've heard time and time again about your chosen work: discipline. Show up. Be present.
Some favorite moments:
* Don't think too much. There'll be time to think later. Analysis won't help. You're chiseling now. You're passing your hands over the wood. Now the page is no longer blank. There's something there. It isn't your business yet to know whether it's going to be prize-worthy someday, or whether it will gather dust in a drawer. Now you've carved the tree. You've chiseled the marbled. You've begun.
*When two people who shouldn't be married to each other bring a child into the world, that child - I'm distancing myself here, making myself into a character - that child cannot help but feel as if she's navigating the world on a borrowed visa. Her papers aren't in order. Her right to be here is in question.
*I sit down everyday at around the same time and put myself in the path of inspiration...If I don't sit down, if I'm not there working, the inspiration will pass right by me, like the right guy in a romantic comedy who's on the other side of the party but the girl never sees because she' focused on her total loser of a date.
*I haven't waited to be in the mood. I've just gone ahead and done it anyway, because that's what I've been doing for years now.
*She is practicing, because she knows that there is no difference between practice and art. The practice IS the art.
*It would be many years before I began to understand that all of life is practice: writing, driving, hiking, brushing teeth, packing lunch boxes, making beds, cooking dinner, making love, walking dogs, even sleeping. We are always practicing. Only practicing.
*"Know your own bone," Thoreau wrote. "Gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, gnaw it still." Of course, the beginning of this powerful piece of wisdom is: "Do what you love." In order to do what we love - whether we are woodworkers, legal-aid attorneys, emergency room physicians, or novelists - we must first know ourselves as deeply as we are able. Know you own bone. This self-knowledge can be messy. But it is at the center of our life's work, this gnawing, this unearthing. There is never an end to it. Our deepest stories - our bones - are our best teachers. Gnaw it still.
*When I first learned of Buddhism's eight vissicitudes - pain and pleasure, gain and loss, praise and blame, fame and disrepute - I was taught that it is unskillful to compare. We will never know what's coming. We cannot peer around the bend. Envy is human, yes, but also corrosive and powerful. It is our job to pursue our own dharma and covet no one else's.