“Abandon the idea of predetermination, the shaping force of your intention, until you’ve given it up for good. Bring your intentions, by all means, but accept that the language we use is a language of accidentals, always skewing away from the course we set. This is not something to mourn but to revel in – not only for the friction and sideslip inherent in the language but for freeing us from the narrowness of our preconceptions.”Several Short Sentences About Writing (p.109), Verlyn Klinkenborg
A Language of Accidentals
“I’m repeatedly asked how I write, what my “process” is. My answer is simple: I think patiently, trying out sentences in my head. That is the root of it. What happens on paper or at the keyboard is only distantly connected. The virtue of working this way is that circumstances — time, place, tools — make no difference whatsoever. All I need is my head. All I need is the moments I have.
There’s no magic here. Practice these things, and you’ll stop fearing what happens when it’s time to make sentences worth inscribing. You’ll no longer feel as though a sentence is a glandular secretion from some cranial inkwell that’s always on the verge of drying up. You won’t be able to say precisely where sentences come from — there is no where there — but you’ll know how to wait patiently as they emerge and untangle themselves. You’ll discover the most important thing your education left out: how to trust and value your own thinking. And you’ll also discover one of things writing is for: pleasure.”Where Do Sentences Come From?, Verlyn Klinkenborg
All Real Living Hurts
“All real living hurts as well as fulfils. Happiness comes when we have lived and have a respite for sheer forgetting. Happiness, in the vulgar sense, is just a holiday experience. The life-long happiness lies in being used by life, hurt by life, driven by life and goaded by life, replenished and overjoyed with life, fighting for life’s sake. That is real happiness. In the undergoing, a large part of it is pain.”D.H Lawrence, The Boy in the Bush
The Miserable Daily Effort (That is Everything)
“One day not too long ago I sat down at the desk, determined to sit there until at least one thought clarified itself sufficiently to serve the essay I was writing. I failed. Next day I sat down again. Again, I failed. Three days later, same thing. But the day after that the fog cleared out of my head. I solved a simple writing problem, one that had seemed intractable, and a stone rolled off my chest. Once again, and perhaps for the 4000th time since leaving analysis, I thanked the daily effort, my gratitude profuse. I saw what by now I’d seen many times before: It wasn’t the writing itself that was everything, it was sitting down to it every day that was everything. It’s the miserable daily effort that is everything. It is when I am honoring it that I become a woman still set on inhabiting a serious life.” (emphasis mine)Vivian Gornick, A Serious Woman (cited in Mason Currey’s Subtle Maneuvers newsletter)
“We have got on to slippery ice where there is no friction and so in a certain sense the conditions are ideal, but also, just because of that, we are unable to walk. We want to walk: so we need friction. Back to the rough ground!”Ludwig Wittgenstein
In a political context, what could this “slippery ice” be?
Could we be too comfortable, sedated even, with the amount of “content” available to us that we never question the state of things?
Eminently Doable Actions
“If you can approach your daily life in this way for a while – as a sequence of momentary, self-contained, eminently doable actions, rather than as an arduous matter of chipping away at enormous challenges – you might notice something profound, which is that, in fact, this is all you ever need to do. You can make your way through life exclusively in this manner. (As E. L. Doctorow said of writing, it’s “like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”) And not just that: actually, it’s all you ever could do. There is no achievement, in the history of human civilisation, that has ever been accomplished by any means other than as a sequence of doable actions.
In the end, it isn’t really a question of “breaking big projects down into small chunks.” It’s more a matter of seeing that “big projects” are nothing but psychological constructs, quasi-illusory entities summoned into existence by taking a particular view of what our lives really consist of – which is moments, and the actions that unfold in them.”Oliver Burkeman, The Imperfectionist (“How to get out of a rut”)
What Inspiration Asks of Us
“In my experience, inspiration is not something that finds you, or offers itself to you, nor for that matter is faith. Inspiration and faith are similar in so far as they both ask something of us. They each require real and constant practical application. For me, inspiration comes only when I practice certain things regularly and rigorously. I must commit fully to the task in hand, sit down each day, pick up my pencil (actually it is a medium black or blue Bic Biro) and get to work. It is not exactly toiling down the coal mines, but it is labour enough, and I undertake it through the good times and the bad, through the dry periods and the periods of abundance, and I keep on going regardless of my successes or failures. Inspiration comes because I put in the work.”Nick Cave, The Red Hand Files (06.10.22)
There’s Enough Time for Everything if …
“There is time enough for everything in the course of the day if you do but one thing once; but there is not time enough in the year if you will do two things at a time.”Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield
Vivifying The Way with Your Body and Life
“A Ch’an master once wrote that the wise enshrine the miraculous bones of the ancients within themselves; that is, they do not regard teachings of ways to enlightenment as an external body of knowledge or information to be possessed as an acquisition or believed or revered as inflexible dogma, but rather apply it as far as possible to themselves and their situations, vivifying the way of enlightenment with their own bodies and lives, not just in their thoughts. It is therefore a matter of course that new Buddhist literature has been produced; for the Buddhist canon is not closed, as long as people continue the search for enlightenment.”Thomas Cleary, introduction to his translation of The Blue Cliff Record
You Don’t Always Have to Find a Solution
“When you allow for uncertainty, then you don’t always have to find solutions. You can live through a problem until it’s not a problem anymore. Instead of seeing things as problems, you see the life you are living. You can live your way into the answers. This is different from standing outside of your life and throwing stones at your problems from a safe distance.”John Tarrant Roshi, “Why Play with Koans?“