Monday, December 31, 2018

The present moment

"We balance the risks of the physical world ... with the risks of an insular life, lived underground, in fear. Too much safety creates its own dangers."
--Anne P. Beatty, "You Don't Have to Be Here," Creative Nonfiction Issue 68, Risk: Embracing Uncertainty

That quote struck me, since I'm one of those cautious people who try to plan for every eventuality. Risk-averse, to boot. But the older I get, the more I'm aware of just how much of life is beyond our control.

As we flip the calendar to the new year, we think about what we want the year ahead to be. I have many sources of uncertainty in many areas of my life right now, and rather than deal with all of 2019 I am going to continue focusing on the present moment. The now. 

"'The present moment is a teacher that will always be with you, a teacher that will never fail you.'"--Thich Nhat Hanh, quoted in "Learning to Trust the Present Moment" by Mitchell S. Ratner, The Mindfulness Bell, Issue 31

 On New Year's we think a lot about past and future. We count off the final seconds of a year, letting it go, watching it become the past right before our eyes. We look ahead to the unknown, the fresh start, the clean new calendar. I have lived through the turning of a year, a decade, a century, a millennium. But I keep settling in to the present moment.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Now that's what I call guidance counseling

"When my ninth-grade guidance counselor asked me what I wanted to do with my life, I told him I wanted to be a writer. Mr. Stone, in his brown corduroy suit and tinted aviator glasses, shook his head sadly. 'Ann,' he said, 'people don't do that.'"
--Ann Hood, Morningstar: Growing Up with Books

I'm enjoying Hood's book about reading, and writing, and coming of age, and the importance of stories. I thought this quote might amuse the writers out there--and the readers, too, for that matter. Thank goodness people do do that writer thing.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

The first rewards

"...I am solidly, realistically joyous; I like living in hope of publication; I can live without the actual publication. I write, however poorly, or superficially, for fun, for aesthetic order, and I am not poor or superficial, no matter what I turn out."
--Sylvia Plath, The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 1: 1940-1956, ed. by Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil

Sylvia Plath wrote those words after her first flush of writing success, and after the breakdown that culminated in a suicide attempt, and before she knew she would have another, bigger wave of writing success--indeed, before she had even written the works for which she is now most famous. She's identifying the separation between the joy of publishing, which is unpredictable, and the joy of creation, which is always within reach. 

Artists know, or soon learn, that the degree of effort is not always proportional to the degree of (outward) success, and nothing is guaranteed. The inevitable questions are: Why am I creating this? Who is it for?