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Writing Conference, Ashland, Oregon

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A meaningful life

I’ve met, taught, and corresponded with thousands of writers over the years and witnessed that no matter what we do for our day jobs, writing is our true work. It is the work of our hearts; it provides the scaffolding for our days as Annie Dillard professes, and shapes our understanding of the world.  Self-help gurus espouse how we are all meant to work at what best suits us, drawing on our natural talents and abilities as self expression and to contribute to the world. This work, when we find it and do it — even if only as a hobby or amateur dabbling at first — is a key to real happiness, self-expression, or living a meaningful life.

 Of course this earnest talk and wisdom about vocation has been around for a long time. But this I know about writing: it’s honest and legal and fun. It’s taken me years, but I’m at peace with what I do for a living and it’s also taken me years to develop a practice so that I write until there was an answering silence within. I’ve found solace in writing the way a child finds solace in his mother’s arms, a painter finds solace while working on a canvas, a cellist while playing an echoing concerto.

I’ve learned that if I sit here often enough, with patience and humility and willingness, then force Imagemy mind into a quiet place– and trust me, that’s not easy–the work will get done. The ideas will emerge, the metaphors will be apt, the music of language will take over. And it’s simple really, I’m happy when I’m writing, when I’m stirring the alchemy of words.

 If you’ve followed my work you know that I believe that writing brings meaning to life. People unlock truths with words,  dream and live stories. And in writing these truths and stories   you explore your bruised or open heart, examine beliefs, understand your past, and come to grips with what it means to be human in our times and throughout history. So writing has great value for the self since it involves analysis, thoughtfulness and creativity. In writing you are evoking all the senses and making concrete the fleeting. Writing taps our deepest feelings, helps us face our mistakes and regrets, nightmares and heartbreaks, and is a means to return all the gifts we’ve been given.

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“Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so that we may feel again their majesty and power? What do we ever know that is higher than that power which, from time to time, seizes our lives, and reveals us startlingly to ourselves as creatures set down here bewildered? Why does death so catch us by surprise, and why love? We still and always want waking. We should amass half dressed in long lines like tribesmen and shake gourds at each other, to wake up; instead we watch television and miss the show.”
 – Annie Dillardanniedillard