Q: Where and when do you do your writing? A: Any small room with no natural light will do. As for when, I have no particular schedules... afternoons are best, but I'm too lethargic for any real regime. When I'm in the flow of something I can do a regular 9 to 5; when I don't know where I'm going with an idea, I'm lucky if I do two hours of productive work. There is nothing more off-putting to a would-be novelist to hear about how so-and-so wakes up at four in the a.m, walks the dog, drinks three liters of black coffee and then writes 3,000 words a day, or that some other asshole only works half an hour every two weeks, does fifty press-ups and stands on his head before and after the "creative moment." I remember reading that kind of stuff in profiles like this and becoming convinced everything I was doing was wrong. What's the American phrase? If it ain't broke...
The world is too much with us; late and soon,Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;Little we see in Nature that is ours;We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,The winds that will be howling at all hours,And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,For this, for everything, we are out of tune;It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather beA Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
In other words, I have tried to learn in my writing a monastic lesson I could probably not have learned otherwise: to let go of my idea of myself, to take myself with more than one grain of salt... In religious terms, this is simply a matter of accepting life, and everything in life as a gift, and clinging to none of it, as far as you are able. You give some of it to others, if you can. Yet one should be able to share things with others without bothering too much about how they like it, either, or how they accept it. Assume they will accept it, if they need it. And if they don’t need it, why should they accept it? That is their business. Let me accept what is mine and give them all their share, and go my way.
I made sure to pay attention to everything I was doing. To be fully in the moment. Because that's all life is, really, a string of moments that you knot together and carry with you. Hopefully most of those moments are wonderful, but of course they won't all be. The trick is to recognize an important one when it happens. Even if you share the moment with someone else, it is still yours. Your string is different from anyone else's. It is something no one can ever take away from you. It will protect you and guide you, because it IS you. What you hold here, in your hand, in this box, this is my string."Until recently, I thought it was death that gave meaning to life--that having an endpoint is what spurred us on to embrace life while we had it. But I was wrong. It isn't death that gives meaning to life. Life gives meaning to life. The answer to the meaning of life is hidden right there inside the question. "What matters is holding tight to that string, and not letting anyone tell us our goals aren't big enough or our interests are silly. But the voices of others aren't the only ones we need to worry about. We tend to be our own worst critics. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: 'Most of the shadows in this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine.' ... Wisdom is found in the least expected places. Always keep your eyes open. Don't block your own sunshine. Be filled with wonder.
Hell, there're already too many psychologists; too many everythings. Too many engineers, too many chemists, too many doctors, too many dentists, too many sociologists. There aren't enough people who can actually do anything, really know how to make this world work.When you thing about it; when you look at the way it really is; God, we've got - well, let's say, there's 100 percent. Half of these are under eighteen or over sixty-five; that is not working. This leaves the middle fifty percent. Half of these are women; most are so busy having babies or taking care of kids, they're totally occupied. Some of them work, too, so let's say we're down to 30 percent. Ten percent are doctors or lawyers or sociologists or psychologists or dentists or businessmen or artists or writers, or schoolteachers, or priests, ministers, rabbis; none of there are actually producing anything, they're only servicing people. So now we're down to 20 percent. At least 2 or 3 percent are living on trusts or clipping coupons or are just rich. That leaves 17 percent. Seven percent of these are unemployed, mostly on purpose! So in the end we've got 10 percent producing all the food, constructing the houses, building and repairing all the roads, developing electricity, working in the mines, building cars, collecting garbage; all the dirty work, all the real work.Everybody's just looking for some gimmick so they don't have to actually do anything. And the worst part is, the ones who do the work get paid the least.
what if you get most of what the eye sees?what if love came in seeds?what if we plant them and they grow trees? what if they form hearts instead of leafs?what if hate was to freeze?what if there was no honeybees?what if your heart stops when you sneeze?what if the evil uses the word please?what if we get down on our knees?what if we pray to the creator of the earth, heavens ,and seas?what if the heartless bleeds?what if the poor needs?what if the wealthy and greedy feeds?what if the illiterate reads what if hearts had keys?what if we aim for our dreams?what if we do all good deeds?what if the only brew was teas?what if we all wore white tees?what if we could accomplish some of these? WHAT IF ?
He was really quite addicted to her face, and yet for the longest time he could not remember it at all, it being so much brighter than sunlight on a pool of water that he could only recall that blinding brightness; then after awhile, since she refused to give him her photograph, he began to practice looking away for a moment when he was still with her, striving to uphold in his inner vision what he had just seen (her pale, serious, smooth and slender face, oh, her dark hair, her dark hair), so that after immense effort he began to retain something of her likeness although the likeness was necessarily softened by his fallibility into a grainy, washed-out photograph of some bygone court beauty, the hair a solid mass of black except for parallel streaks of sunlight as distinct as the tines of a comb, the hand-tinted costume sweetly faded, the eyes looking sadly, gently through him, the entire image cob-webbed by a sheet of semitranslucent Thai paper whose white fibers twisted in the lacquered space between her and him like gorgeous worms; in other words, she remained eternally elsewhere.
You can only afford to be generous if you actually have some money in the bank to give. In the same way, if your only source of love and meaning is your spouse, then anytime he or she fails you, it will not just cause grief but a psychological cataclysm. If, however, you know something of the work of the Spirit in your life, you have enough love "in the bank" to be generous to your spouse even when you are not getting much affection or kindness at the moment.
As Gill says, "every man is called to give love to the work of his hands. Every man is called to be an artist." The small family farm is one of the last places - they are getting rarer every day - where men and women (and girls and boys, too) can answer that call to be an artist, to learn to give love to the work of their hands. It is one of the last places where the maker - and some farmers still do talk about "making the crops" - is responsible, from start to finish, for the thing made. This certainly is a spiritual value, but it is not for that reason an impractical or uneconomic one. In fact, from the exercise of this responsibility, this giving of love to the work of the hands, the farmer, the farm, the consumer, and the nation all stand to gain in the most practical ways: They gain the means of life, the goodness of food, and the longevity and dependability of the sources of food, both natural and cultural. The proper answer to the spiritual calling becomes, in turn, the proper fulfillment of physical need.
I feel to that the gap between my new life in New York and the situation at home in Africa is stretching into a gulf, as Zimbabwe spirals downwards into a violent dictatorship. My head bulges with the effort to contain both worlds. When I am back in New York, Africa immediately seems fantastical – a wildly plumaged bird, as exotic as it is unlikely.Most of us struggle in life to maintain the illusion of control, but in Africa that illusion is almost impossible to maintain. I always have the sense there that there is no equilibrium, that everything perpetually teeters on the brink of some dramatic change, that society constantly stands poised for some spasm, some tsunami in which you can do nothing but hope to bob up to the surface and not be sucked out into a dark and hungry sea. The origin of my permanent sense of unease, my general foreboding, is probably the fact that I have lived through just such change, such a sudden and violent upending of value systems.In my part of Africa, death is never far away. With more Zimbabweans dying in their early thirties now, mortality has a seat at every table. The urgent, tugging winds themselves seem to whisper the message, memento mori, you too shall die. In Africa, you do not view death from the auditorium of life, as a spectator, but from the edge of the stage, waiting only for your cue. You feel perishable, temporary, transient. You feel mortal. Maybe that is why you seem to live more vividly in Africa. The drama of life there is amplified by its constant proximity to death. That’s what infuses it with tension. It is the essence of its tragedy too. People love harder there. Love is the way that life forgets that it is terminal. Love is life’s alibi in the face of death. For me, the illusion of control is much easier to maintain in England or America. In this temperate world, I feel more secure, as if change will only happen incrementally, in manageable, finely calibrated, bite-sized portions. There is a sense of continuity threaded through it all: the anchor of history, the tangible presence of antiquity, of buildings, of institutions. You live in the expectation of reaching old age.At least you used to.But on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, those two states of mind converge. Suddenly it feels like I am back in Africa, where things can be taken away from you at random, in a single violent stroke, as quick as the whip of a snake’s head. Where tumult is raised with an abruptness that is as breathtaking as the violence itself.
Go for broke. Always try and do too much. Dispense with safety nets. Take a deep breath before you begin talking. Aim for the stars. Keep grinning. Be bloody-minded. Argue with the world. And never forget that writing is as close as we get to keeping a hold on the thousand and one things--childhood, certainties, cities, doubts, dreams, instants, phrases, parents, loves--that go on slipping , like sand, through our fingers.
You are going to do some really stupid and mean things in the name of love. Don’t be so hard on yourself when things don’t turn out. You are a good person that loved deeply. Anybody worth having will know that hurting someone is not showing someone who you really are. You’re a sensitive person that showed the depth of your love, by the depth of your pain. Fairytale love will show you only one face. Real love will show you as many faces as it takes to get you to see how much that person really wanted you in their life.