Always, in the big woods, when you leave familiar ground
and step off alone into a new place there will be,
along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement
a little nagging of dread.
It is the ancient fear of the Unknown, and
it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into.
What you are doing is exploring.
You are undertaking the first experience, not of the place,
but of yourself in that place.
It is an experience of our essential loneliness;
for nobody can discover the world for anybody else.
It is only after we have discovered it for ourselves that
it becomes a common ground and a common bond, and
we cease to be alone.
The One-Inch Journey
Stay in the room. It needn’t be an actual room. You can be alone in a busy cafe. I’ve gotten some of my best ideas while walking, or riding the Paris Metro (I recommend Line 8). I’ve never gotten a good idea while checking Twitter or shopping.
You need to be blank, and even a little bit bored, for your brain to feed you ideas. The poet Wendell Berry wrote that in solitude, “one’s inner voices become audible.” Figure out your clearest, most productive time of day to work, and guard this time carefully.
Always carry a pen, a paper notebook and something good to read. A lot of life consists of the dead time in between events. Don’t fill these interstitial moments with pornography and cat videos. Fill them with things that feed your work and your soul.
From “How to Find Your Place in the World after Graduation,” Pamela Druckerman, The New York Times.
Many thanks to Front Porch Journal, which has nominated my story “Bubble” for this year’s Pushcart Prize.
You can check out the story, which appeared in Issue 27 of Front Porch Journal, here.
Now I’m 79. I’ve written many hundreds of essays, 10 times that number of misbegotten drafts both early and late, and I begin to understand that failure is its own reward. It is in the effort to close the distance between the work imagined and the work achieved wherein it is to be found that the ceaseless labor is the freedom of play, that what’s at stake isn’t a reflection in the mirror of fame but the escape from the prison of the self.
From an interview with poet August Kleinzahler:
Recently Poetry posed a question about the social utility of poetry. Does that interest you?
No. I agree with Auden that “poetry makes nothing happen.” Nothing else needs to be said about it.
One more: some argue that the only value of a work of art is the value others derive from it. Do you agree?
I don’t think of such imponderables as “the value of art.” I do think, however, no matter how difficult or opaque the work, the making of art is a profoundly social activity, even if it’s one-on-one with some sort of ideal reader who doesn’t exist.
One must keep on looking without for a second relaxing the intensity of emotion, the determination not to be put off, not to be bamboozled. One must hold the scene — so — in a vice and let nothing come in and spoil it. One wanted, she thought, dipping her brush deliberately, to be on a level with ordinary experience, to feel simply that’s a chair, that’s a table, and yet at the same time It’s a miracle, it’s an ecstasy.
To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf