Stronger Together

“I will never apologize for saying that the future of humanity and the future of the world is going to be defined by what we have in common as opposed to those things that separate us and ultimately lead us [into] conflict. We don’t realize our potential as a country when we’re preventing blacks or Latinos or Asians or gays or women from fully participating in the project of building American life.”

— President Barack Obama


The Dark Came Down on All Hallow’s Eve…

From A Breath of Snow and Ashes, the sixth volume in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series:

The dark came down on All Hallows’ Eve. We went to sleep to the sound of howling wind and pelting rain, and woke on the Feast of All Saints to whiteness and large soft flakes falling down in absolute stillness. There is no more perfect stillness than the solitude in the heart of a snow storm.


This is the thing time, when the beloved dead draw near. The world turns inward, and the chilling air grows thick with dreams and mysterry. The sky goes from a sharp clear cold where a million stars burn bright and close, to the gray-pink cloud that enfolds the earth with the promise of snow.


I took one of Bree’s matches from its box and lit it, thrilling to the tiny leap of instant flame, and bent to put it to the kindling. Snow was falling, and winter had come; the season of fire. Candles and hearth fire, that lovely, leaping paradox, that destruction contained but never tamed, held at a safe distance to warm and enchant, but always, still, with that small sense of danger.


The smell of roasting pumpkins was thick and sweet in the air. Having ruled the night with fire, the jack-o’-lanterns went now to a more peaceful fate as pies and compost, to join the gentle rest of the earth before renewal. I had turned the earth in my garden the day before, planting the winter seeds to sleep and swell, to dream their buried birth.


Now is the time when we reenter the womb of the world, dreaming the dreams of snow and silence. Waking to the shock of frozen lakes under waning moonlight and the cold sun burning low and blue in the branches of the ice-cased trees, returning from our brief and necessary labors to food and story, to the warmth of firelight in the dark.


Around a fire, in the dark, all truths can be told, and heard, in safety.


I pulled on my woolen stockings, thick petticoats, my warmest shawl, and went down to poke up the kitchen fire. I stood watching wisps of steam rise from the fragrant cauldron, and felt myself turn inward. The world could go away, and we would heal.


No point here, nothing much to say, just a piece of writing that I found especially lovely and evocative. And enviable…


“Don’t Get Discouraged, Start Again”

Anne Rice, the author of Interview with the Vampire among many other things, has developed a remarkable relationship with her fans via her Facebook page. She posts regularly and frequently — and it really is her posting, not a staffer pretending to be her — on a wide variety of subjects ranging from archaeology to politics to which old movies she enjoys watching at night. She reveals a great deal of herself — I find it kind of adorable that a woman her age evidently has a tremendous crush on Jon Bon Jovi — and she engages with her fans who frequent the page to a highly unusual degree. I’ve had a couple of direct exchanges with her myself (we’ve shared our experiences as diabetics).

And of course, like many other writers who are active on social media or blogs, she offers a lot of practical advice and encouragement to those who would follow in her footsteps. Now, I don’t usually care what successful writers have to say about the craft or business, because I’ve read enough of their comments to know they all followed different paths to get where they are, and that one has to pretty much find your own way. And for me, all that advice is an abstraction anyhow, because I haven’t been writing in recent years, not fiction and not even as much here on the blog. In fact, lately I’ve been wondering if I even deserve to call myself a writer anymore, or if that’s something I ought to just try to let go of.

And that is probably why Anne Rice’s latest thoughts on writing, posted today, struck such a chord in me:

First and foremost: write. What makes an author is writing. Write no matter what. If you stop writing, start writing. Keep writing. If you go through a long period without writing, don’t get discouraged, start again. I don’t think it’s true that a “real writer” writes every day. I don’t write everyday and I think most people consider me a real writer. Just write in your own way. Protect your ideas and protect your material. Guard against criticism. If you hear something critical that helps you, take it, seize on it and use it. But if you hear a lot of bad things, don’t pay any attention. Just keep going. It’s very easy to criticize someone else’s writing. If you want an insight into how easy it is, just think of the classics you may not like personally, or how easy it is to make fun of them, or criticize them. It’s very easy for people to attack you and discourage you. Ignore them; be polite to them, but ignore them, and just keep going. Keep protecting your ideas and your work and stick with the feeling you have when you’re writing. If you enjoy what you’re writing, someone else is going to enjoy reading it someday. So just stick with that feeling; be faithful to that. Go where the pain is when you write; go where the pleasure is. Create the book that you would like to read, the book that you want to live in as a writer. Just keep going. Your first obligation, as Ernest Hemingway said, is to survive. To survive as a writer you have to have nerve, you have to be almost stubborn. There are many people who’ve told me I have no talent, and that my writing was no good. I simply ignored them. You have to do that if you want to succeed as a writer. The arts have always been rough. Nobody is really owned anything in the arts; nobody’s entitled to be published or to succeed. You do it by doing it. You do it by believing in yourself, and that faith in yourself is the most important thing you have.

“If you go through a long period without writing, don’t get discouraged, start again.” Those words give me hope that the flame hasn’t guttered out for good. Now, if I can just figure out how to actually, you know, do it


“Sheer Egoism”

Not that I’ve written much of anything recently, creative or otherwise, but nevertheless I relate to many of George Orwell’s thoughts in the essay “Why I Write,” in particular the motive he chooses to put at the top of his list:

Putting aside the need to earn a living, I think there are four great motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose. They exist in different degrees in every writer, and in any one writer the proportions will vary from time to time, according to the atmosphere in which he is living. They are:


(i) Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen — in short, with the whole top crust of humanity. The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all — and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class.

I fear I’ve slumped into the “smothered under drudgery” stage of life; that’s as accurate a description of my day-to-day experience as anything I’ve encountered. But I still dream the dream I had when I was younger of producing something that will endure after I’m gone… of leaving my mark on the world, an echo of my voice and mind. I guess we all dream of that, though, writers or not…


“Nothing Is Original”

I’ve never seen a Jim Jarmusch movie, and from what I read in his wikipedia entry, I doubt they’d do much for me. I’m not a fan of self-consciously “art house” stuff. However, I do like this sentiment of his I ran across on Goodreads:

Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”

–Jim Jarmusch

(Original attribution: MovieMaker Magazine #53, Winter, January 22, 2004)


Quote of the Day

Humans are problematic.

Life is problematic.

Everything you like is problematic, if you look hard enough.

Wil Wheaton (emphasis mine)

Nothing especially profound here, just something that clicked with thoughts I’ve been having recently about how people and works of art alike have a lot of different facets, and how we often choose to overlook some of those facets because we want to continue liking something or someone we already have a history with.


The Quality of a Nation

And now a selection from the “Inspiring Quotations that Shouldn’t Be Controversial But Probably Will Be in Today’s Political Climate” file:

The quality of a nation isn’t determined by how well the people at the top are living — no, the true quality of a nation is determined by how well the people at the bottom are treated. We will be judged by the way we treat the sick, the poor, the elderly, children, animals, and even the world we live upon.


If we want to pride ourselves as good people, as rational people, as compassionate people — then we must not give in to our own darker impulses.


And as angry as we might feel about the criminal act of any perpetrator, that will never be a justification for abandoning our own morality.

David Gerrold, science-fiction writer


Quote of the Day

From a piece about the early ’90s TV series Twin Peaks, which is apparently going to be revisited soon on Showtime:

Nostalgia is never only nostalgia, but the raw, reflexive appetite for something we can no longer access.

I confess, I’m not entirely sure what the author means by the first clause of that sentence, “Nostalgia is never only nostalgia,” but I really like the language she comes up with to describe the phenomenon: “the raw, reflexive appetite for something we can no longer access.” That certainly sounds like my emotional experience. The word “reflexive,” in particular, is… enlightening.


Quotables: The Stories Only You Can Tell

From one of those lists of quotes by famous writers that go around every so often, which usually comprise a smidgeon of generic inspiration with some pat condescension and a whole lot of discouragement (at least that’s how I tend to experience them), here’s one I thought was actually pretty helpful:

Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that — but you are the only you.

― Neil Gaiman

(Gaiman is, of course, the best-selling fantasy novelist who created The Sandman, one of the most sublime comic-books-for-grownups ever written… just in case you didn’t know… )


And One from Mark Twain…

I’ve already posted this on Facebook and Tumblr, so sorry if you’re getting bored of it, but I really like this quote:


And the photo is pretty cool, too!