Ideas of the Shipwrecked

These are the only genuine ideas, the ideas of the shipwrecked. All the rest is rhetoric, posturing, farce.” –Jose Ortega y Gasset   Breakage BY MARY OLIVER I go down to the edge of the sea. How everything shines in the morning light! The cusp of the whelk, the broken cupboard of the clam, the opened, blue mussels, moon snails, pale pink and barnacle scarred— and nothing at all whole or shut, but tattered, split, dropped by the gulls onto the gray rocks and all the moisture gone. It’s like a schoolhouse of little words, thousands of words. First you … Continue reading

Don’t Spare Yourself

Okay, so… I’m still taking violin lessons. Along with my violin lessons I discovered another life lesson, as well as a good lesson for writers. If I want to learn how to play the violin, I have to be willing to play poorly. Like I remind my writing students all the time — be willing to write several shitty drafts before the story works, before you “sound” pleasing.  The enjoyment found in writing several shitty drafts, as well as playing crude on the violin, is indispensable to progress in both. I delight in holding an idea and seeing how it comes out on the page. I enjoy holding the violin and … Continue reading

How Not To Be Discouraged

. . . it is important that awake people be awake, or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep; the signals we give–yes or no, or maybe– should be clear; the darkness around us is deep.   –William Stafford, A Ritual To Read To Each Other For many of us these can be discouraging times. Then again, I doubt any of us get through our lives free of discouragement. Like me, you may be discouraged by the outpour of support for Trump. Or you may be in a job or relationship that undermines you. Or you have experienced a great … Continue reading

Easier Said Than Done

One reason I enjoy facilitating transformational circles, writing support circles, and teaching creative nonfiction, is it helps me maintain my practices, while I am continually stretched beyond my comfort zone. That being said, I can be (very) resistant to learning and applying new practices. It’s good to have enthusiasm and joy for our writing (and spiritual practices) but we should still find it challenging enough to test our capacities for growth. Difficulties may be welcomed because it’s only by working through challenges and resistance that we develop as writers (and human beings). We can look at where we have resistance to sometimes … Continue reading

A Well-Trained Writer

  I took this photo on a recent trip to San Fransisco with my daughter. This dog stood outside a hair salon watching as streams of people passed. She didn’t have a leash. She didn’t move from her spot. If you pet her, her tail didn’t wag. She just stood watch. As she was trained to do. Every day we had some memorable dog encounter. Later we read a large billboard announcing San Fransisco as a dog-friendly city. Even when we visited Carmel beach for its sunset, we encountered dozens of dogs without leashes. Inevitably, their human would be ahead of them, and the dog, without being … Continue reading

Einstein Had A Day Job

Once Einstein graduated from college, unable to land a teaching position, he got a day job. By then he had developed a deep curiosity about the mysteries of life and no matter what he was up to, kept a conversation going with the questions he held about these mysteries.  He explored mathematics, inquired about how things worked, all which resulted in ideas and then of course, discoveries. “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” —Albert Einstein — To Carl Seelig – March 11,1952.  We start with a curiosity about some dream or question we have, we hold a … Continue reading

An Unexpected Visitor

This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond. – Rumi   Then, write about … Continue reading