Three Inspirations


When I am teaching (as I am all the time now), I tend to think more conversationally than when I am abiding inside my head, spinning tales. Lately, it seems there’s been a lot I’ve wanted to share that’s excited  and inspired me. Here are three of those items:

1) Haruki Murakami’s memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

At first, I was almost disappointed in the fit-of-my-shoes and tracking-of-miles-run-in-a-month mundanity of the book. But after I finished it, the full impact of his practice as a runner, his inevitable decline in the face of the body’s mortality, but his perseverance nonetheless, gave me the triumvirate of the writer’s being: the brain (lover of plot and planning, of revision, perfection and an impossible certainty), the storyteller (crazy, intuition-driven, passionate troubadour, who can do everything you hope and more if the brain will shut up), and now, the athlete. This is the writer who knows that how it feels to get the words down is irrelevant. The key is to put in the miles, to go the distance, to establish and maintain daily routines.

2) Robert A. Heinlein’s Five “Rules for Writing.”

1) You must write.

2) You must finish what you write.

3) You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.

4) You must put the work on the market.

5) You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

In a remarkable little essay, Robert J. Sawyer then takes us through each rule, showing us how fully half of all people who want to be writers fail to follow each rule. He adds a sixth, too.

(I’ll spend more time on this at another point, but let me say here that knowing what it means for a particular work to be finished—Rule #2—will make it possible, I think, to follow Rule #3 with success and a sense of integrity.)

3) A writer friend forwarded a “weekly reflection” from Mark Nepo about the long and material apprenticeship various cultures expect of their various artists and craftspeople. A perfect counterpoint to Heinlein’s light-a-fire-under-your-derriere Rules, Nepo’s gentle reminder pointed to a love of the process, of making progress rather than arriving. It’s not on his web site, but a bunch of his writing and information about him is there.

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  1. thanks for the inspiration. it’s those little one-liners that do the trick. such as ‘making progress rather than arriving’. that is the answer to everything, isn’t it?

    doing any ‘question and answer’ calls this month?

  2. Thanks for this post, Elizabeth. It makes me really want to read both Murakami’s memoir (which I see every time I go to Pegasus) and Robert’s 5 rules (is it Robert A. Heinlein or Robert J. Sawyer who wrote the rules?).

    • Meghan–It’s Heinlein who came up with the rules. Thanks for asking. Murakami taught me that the writer is an athlete.


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