Advice for Writing and Living

I’m home from the Midwest Writers Workshop, where the keynote speaker, mystery writer Hank Phillippi Ryan, shared “What I wish someone would have told me.”

By Kartikay Sahay via Flickr Creative Commons

By Kartikay Sahay via Flickr Creative Commons

The advice was writing-related, from how to deal with solitude (“You write alone, but you are not alone”) to the inevitability of self-doubt (“Before you burn your manuscript, make a copy.”) Still, I was struck by how much of her guidance also applies to those of us invested in the critical work of remaking the world.

First up: mention was made of the classic Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. In which Anne’s brother, in grade school, waits to begin a report till the night before it is due. The topic? Birds of North America.

Not surprisingly, he comes nearly unglued in panic. Their father, a writer, counsels him, “Just take it bird by bird, buddy. Bird by bird.”

Then there’s this:

“What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? Do that. Be brave.”

And finally, the need to be happy, to love what you are doing, and to enjoy the place where you find yourself. “This race goes to the stubborn and bullheaded, but it’s also wise to have a good time.”

I was planning to discourse on how these nuggets inform the life of a hopeful thrivalist, but my brain is pretty much a mashed potato right now. So how about this instead: