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Writing Conference, Ashland, Oregon

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There isn’t anything in the world but mad love.~ Mary Oliver

love writing in the sandThere isn’t anything in this world but mad love. Not in this world. No tame love, calm love, mild love, no so-so love. And of course, no reasonable love. Also there are a hundred paths through the world that are easier than loving. But, who wants easier? We dream of love, we moon about it, thinking of Romeo and Juliet, or Tristan, or the lost queen rushing away over the Irish sea, all doom and splendor. Today, on the beach, an old man was sitting in the sun. I called out to him, and he turned. His face was like an empty pot. I remember his tall, pale wife; she died long ago. I remember his daughter-in-law. When she died, hard, and too young, he wept in the streets. He picked up pieces of wood, and stones, and anything else that was there, and threw them at the sea. Oh, how he loved his wife. Oh, how he loved young Barbara. I stood in front of him, not expecting any answer yet not wanting to pass without some greeting. But his face had gone back to whatever he was dreaming. Something touched me lightly, like a knife-blade. I felt I was bleeding, though just a little, a hint. Inside I flared hot, then cold. I thought of you. Whom I love madly.”
~ Mary Oliver,  March, in White Pine

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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.