“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.” ~Dorothy Parker
Taking a break from kindness posts for some shameless self-promotion. I am thrilled that a short essay I submitted to Dorothy Parker’s Ashes was accepted for publication in the latest issue. The theme of this issue is “libido.” And there’s quite an array of libidinous essays to be found should you be in the mood for things lascivious. Mine is entitled “Parental Guidance.”
If you’re not familiar with Dorothy Parker’s Ashes, it’s a delectable online journal of essays and poetry written by women. Each issue has a theme. I’d encourage any female writers reading this (and I know there are many) to check out DPA and consider writing something for one of their upcoming themes. Here’s a link to their Submit page that lists themes and deadlines. You can also subscribe for free.
If the journal’s name seems odd to you, it’s a delightful reminder of just who Dorothy Parker was and the circuitous journey her remains took following her death in 1967. Parker, you’ll recall, was the quick and acerbic wit who delivered such bon mots as “A hangover is the wrath of grapes” and “I don’t care what is written about me so long as it isn’t true.” She was well-known as a critic, poet, short-story writer, and screenwriter. Parker was also known for her caustic humor, her liberal leanings, and her participation in the famed Algonquin Round Table, along with Robert Benchley, Alexander Woollcott, George S. Kaufman, Harold Ross, and several other of the top critics, writers, and humorists of the early-twentieth century. Later, she was among the many writers and actors blacklisted during the McCarthy era. When she died of a heart attack at age 73, she bequeathed her estate to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and upon King’s death, to the NAACP. Continue reading →
“Try to make your time matter: minutes and hours and days and weeks can blow away like dead leaves, with nothing to show but time you spent not quite ever doing things, or time you spent waiting to begin.” ~Neil Gaiman
[While kindness has been and will remain one of the most important lessons of my life—and one I continue to learn daily—lately, I’ve been thinking about other lessons life has taught me. And I’ve become increasingly aware of the lessons that no longer serve and need to be “unlearned.” Like many writers who say they write to find out what they think, writing is how I make sense of my world. Periodically, I plan to explore some of my life lessons here. I invite you to share some of your own.]
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to make a promise to yourself and how hard it can be to keep it? Whether it’s writing that book, losing those ten pounds, exercising daily, or withholding judgment, it’s always easier to think about doing something than to actually do it.
Years ago, I heard these wise words from Michael Broome: “Commitment means continuing to do what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has passed.”
Without commitment, we are dilettantes—we dabble at life, easily distracted by the next shiny object that catches our fancy. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Having wide and multiple interests creates curious and well-rounded personalities. But there’s a difference between flitting among attractions and recognizing what calls to us.
For many of us, there comes a time when, from among all the possibilities surrounding us, one or more pursuits captivate us. “This,” we say, “is where I want to invest my time and energy. This is what makes my heart soar.” Continue reading →
“Practice puts brains in your muscles.” (Sam Snead)
Daily, I am inspired, entertained, and even challenged by the thoughtful posts of my fellow bloggers. Recently, the wonderful Jennifer Balink at Jenny’s Lark set me off on a journey of recollection and recognition. Her lovely post recounted an experience where, as a teenager, she witnessed a friend’s mother react with grace to a situation where most of us would have a meltdown. It took years for Jenny to realize what it is that gives someone the ability to instantly respond to a setback with poise and perspective.
It isn’t virtue, or superhuman patience, or even piety. It’s practice. Tedious, mundane, sometimes even annoying, practice. As lackluster as that word may be, I believe it’s one of a dozen or so secrets to living one’s best life.
Practice is one of the most undervalued traits or actions that we humans have at our disposal. Given a choice, we’d much prefer innate genius, instantaneous transformation, or magic to make us better at some pursuit—or simply to become better humans—when the answer is practice. Just keep doing it. Just keep showing up.
“Don’t you have something a bit more wondrous . . . something, I dunno, maybe kinda sexy? Like enchantment, or sleight-of-hand, or maybe something I could buy with cryptocurrency?”Continue reading →
“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” (Jorge Luis Borges)
Lately, I’ve been purging a lot. No, not the stomach-heaving purge of despair or disgust (though ask me again on November 4), but merely the welcome elimination of excess paper, emails, and detritus surrounding me.
While thus engaged, I came across a wonderful article I first encountered in 2017, “The Man Who Doesn’t Read Women.” This is a meaty article—definitely worth your time and attention—but I will only address one part of it here.
The author, Lorraine Berry, describes a conversation she had with her neurologist while he was treating her for severe migraine headaches by injecting Botox into the muscle next to her eye. Knowing that Berry was a writer, the doctor engaged her in chat about books and authors—he being a voracious reader. During the conversation, she was shocked to hear him admit quite matter-of-factly that he had never read a book written by a woman.
Then he corrected himself to say that oh, yes, he had read one: Charlotte’s Web.Continue reading →
“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be.” (Abraham Maslow)
I have collected quotations for many years—inspirational quotes, humorous ones, profound, wise, and enigmatic ones. Hundreds of them are tacked onto cork board that lines one wall of my home office. Many are yellowed with age or so faded that I can barely read them. I often find myself standing in front of this assemblage and reacquainting myself with wise thinkers and thoughts, with ahas that speak directly to the heart of an attentive life. It’s always a pleasure to find a new quote and squeeze it onto the wall. There will be no Marie Kondo-ing of this space.
One quote that found me a couple of years ago, and was also immediately given both wall space and a spot on my writing desk, is by Sean Thomas Dougherty:
“Right now, there is someone out there with a wound in the exact shape of your words.”