“It is well, at certain hours of the day and night, to look closely at the world of objects at rest. Wheels that have crossed long, dusty distances with their mineral and vegetable burdens, sacks from the coalbins, barrels and baskets, handles and hafts for the carpenter’s tool chest. From them flow the contacts of man with the earth … The used surface of things, the wear that the hands give to things, the air, tragic at times, pathetic at others, of such things – all lend a curious attractiveness to the reality of the world that should not be underprized.”
– Pablo Neruda
“Read, write, know tools and techniques, and make good friends who share your passion and will stick by you.”
– Kelly Cherry
“Day by day, you have to give the work before you all the best stuff you have, not saving up for later projects. If you give freely, there will always be more.”
– Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Poet and activist, Dustin Brookshire, invited me to contribute to his Why Do I Write series.
Why do I write? Author, naturalist and environmental activist, Terry Tempest Williams, covers it all in one of my favourite writing quotes. It’s from her prose piece entitled “Why I Write” in Writing Creative Nonfiction, edited by Carolyn Forché and Philip Gerard (Writer’s Digest Books, 2001).
This year’s contributors to the Why Do I Write series are Mary Jo Bang, Robert Pinsky, Ellen Steinbaum, Paul Lisicky, Virgil Suárez, D A Powell and Didi Menendez. Last year’s line up included Charles Jensen, Erin Murphy, Dorianne Laux, Matthew Hittinger, Christopher Hennessy, Paul Hostovsky, Courtney Queeney, Julianna Baggott, Ellen Bass, Sandra Beasley, Laure-Anne Bosselaar, Kurt Brown, Cecilia Woloch, Denise Duhamel and Dara Wier.
I think there’s something for everyone.
“All my life I’ve been so grateful when I’ve found a writer who has been there before me, who has made me feel not alone. I feel I will have achieved what I set out to do if I am able to help even one person in this way – to walk with them, to accompany them in their solitude.”
– Gillian Allnutt
“Both reading and writing are, then, acts of supreme faith. They are both, in essence, a call to grace, a belief in the miraculous – that we might come to see through stories what we had not previously seen, that we might come to understand what had, before that moment, remained uncertain, undefined. The mask of fiction, of writing and reading stories, does not, in the end, disguise our faces but instead reveals who we really are. In the end, I think, stories acknowledge life’s difficulty and sadness but insist that we go on anyway, that we always hold to our faith, to our belief in grace.”
– John Gregory Brown
“There is no law of nature that you cannot break in a poem; you can address the dead, speak in the voice of inanimate objects, reverse time, explore other worlds. You can also, of course, write from the simplest, most familiar or domestic experience.”
– Jean Sprackland
Read more about Jean Sprackland and her poetry here.
“Feeling your way into the poem is like opening the door of a shadowy room and groping. You’re not even sure about the floor underneath you – it’s likely not to be level – nor are you sure when you start to touch some objects – which represent feelings because every image is expressive – what they are. But it’s your room, that’s the main thing, and you come to learn your way around it even though it always remains dark except for that splendor that lives in laying out the words. Though a poem often is a little thing, twenty lines or even less, a good one is sturdy and knit together like bone, ligament, and muscle. The poets themselves are often not so sturdy.”
– Baron Wormser, The Poetry Life: ten stories (CavanKerry Press, 2008)
“Poetry is a break for freedom.”
– David Whyte
I believe that a writer’s duty as a writer is first to him- or herself. That point in inarguable. A writer has to make a hard-nosed commitment to writing, or the writing won’t happen at all. A writer has to seek out time to write and then guard that time like a pit bull. I got married a few years ago, and committing to writing feels like getting married. Saying yes to the whole enterprise day after day takes a willing and stubborn soul.
But a writer’s first duty as a writer and as a human being, I have also come to believe, is to nurture other writers. A writer must be midwife at the births of other writers’ voices. A writer must share the wisdom she or he has learned in her writer’s solitude and give that wisdom away, with kindness and generosity and gentleness.
It is, I am certain, the giving of an heirloom, an absolutely necessary behest.”
– Julie Checkoway