Just finished writing a novel, after several years of work on it. Stacks of drafts surround this desk, the house is quiet, and after a week of kitchen-painting I’m now back in this room, a notebook open in front of me.
The Question that all writers face: What’s next?
Kent Haruf called it “filling up.” I like that. I think of it, too, as quieting down. Trying to be open. Getting a sense of what wants to emerge from the wilderness this time.
I sit here and glance around at the photographs on these walls. My wife and son. The poster of Everest, Lhotse, and Ama Dablam. The photos of friends on Mount Hood, in Sri Lanka, at Machu Picchu. I look at the little notes here and there, too. There are no perf...
Summer in sight. Tomatoes on their way. Time to slow down some, and here this afternoon, time to think about a few places on this planet that mean a lot to me.
That makes this a thank you note.
The mountain near my hometown of Portland, Oregon. The one now most often called Hood. The trails and rivers and woods up there, they’re part of me. They’ve been a part of me since I was a kid. In my imaginings here at the desk, I often find myself returning to that land up there, the mossy paths and the high country as well, those long views from the Timberline Trail.
The Oregon Coast. Several beaches come to mind, but I’ll go with the dunes at Nehalem Bay State Park near Manzanita. Those walks southward...
Yesterday morning your mom and I walked with you beside the Metolius River. We’ve taken you there since you were little and riding on my back. In photos over the years, there you are, standing by the river on a log, or crouched and eyeing animal tracks, or staring at a great blue heron. Yesterday there was a heron, and there you were, twelve, watching it rise from the river and beyond the pines, those huge wings beating, your parents equally transfixed.
The day before, we’d driven you over the mountains to Bend for your soccer game. With joy over these years we’ve watched you grow and run and persevere. We’ve watched you play soccer in all kinds of weather, as we’ve hiked with you in all kinds,...
Last night at dinner my son asked me, “When were you most scared?”
“You mean, today?”
“In your whole life.”
We were eating pasta and greens at the table, some jazz playing in the background. A cold, rainy night outside.
“Well,” I said. “A few times come to mind. But I’d say probably the grizzly.”
“The one in Glacier National Park?”
“I’ve told that one, haven’t I.”
“I like that one.” He glanced at his mother across the table and smiled. “Tell it again.”
And so I told about how the lovely woman who would one day become my wife and I were hiking toward Grinnell Lake in the backcountry, we were in our late twenties, and there were no other people around. Warm summer day, light breeze, mile four of a seven-m...
Computers are useless — all they can give you are answers.
When I had no roof I made/Audacity my roof.
— Robert Pinsky
What his work (Larry Rivers, the painter) has always had to say to me, I guess, is to be more keenly interested while I’m still alive. And perhaps this is the most important thing art can say.
— Frank O’Hara
Interviewer: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Larry Brown: Rejection. Trial and error. Make lots of stupid mistakes. There are no shortcuts. You have to learn to write fiction that grabs the reader by the throat and doesn’t let him go until you’re through with him. And the only way to do that is to sit down and spend years writing and failing and writing aga...
A neighbor from down the street walks his dog, too. Now and then we see each other and keep the strutting beasts apart, but we raise a hand in greeting or call out a hello. He’s a keen reader, this neighbor, and he knows that I read and write, and only when we’re clobbered by a book do we stop and recommend it.
But this isn’t quite about books. It’s about what makes a person, neighbor or not, look up and make eye contact. What makes them, in a time on earth of such preposterous hurry and distraction, slow down a bit and sanctify a moment by honoring someone else’s dignity.
Last month I was worried about my health. Too much work-related stress, and then too much worry about the alarming effects of...
The dog and I step outside for our morning walk. We go down the front steps, turn into the driveway, and there on the sidewalk is a woman. She’s sitting against the maple tree, the hood of her white sweatshirt pulled tight over her head, covering her face. Strewn across the sidewalk nearby: bits of torn paper, a shiny golden purse, a phone, and a can of IPA. She’s motionless, knees to chest, hugging herself. The dog growls and then looks up at me.
“Are you all right?” I say. No answer, no movement. “Do you need help?” Still no response. But she’s breathing, I can see now a faint movement at her shoulders.
No neighbors are out. The morning smoky and already warm. There’s a woman in front of my hous...
For about twenty-five years I’ve collected words on writing. From books, articles, overheard remarks at readings. These words aren’t about trying to write a bestseller, and they’re not about how to get famous. They’re mostly about the craft of writing, the writing life, how to be in something for the long haul.
I haven’t counted, but it looks like I’ve got around two hundred quotes here, and I’d like to share some of them. What I think I’ll do is, with certain quotes I might add a comment; with others, I’ll just copy them and leave them there on the page to stand and breathe, in some cases to snarl.
From time to time I turn to these words for comfort, for spicy reminders, for a kick in the pants,...