My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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Tony Kushner on writing

Tony Kushner the great American playwright was invited to deliver a speech to up and coming writers recently, and here’s part of what he said:

I’m utterly unsuited to the task of telling you how to live a happy, disciplined writer’s life. I’m a slow reader, a deliberate tortoise of a thinker rather than the intellectual gazelle I would like to be; I’m undisciplined and unhappy writing and expect to be until the writing stops. I find a remarkable number of things to do in a day much more compelling than writing. I could give you absolutely sterling advice on how to avoid writing, how when you run out of things to do other than going to your desk and writing, when every closet is reorganized and you’ve called your oldest living relative twice in one day to see what she’s up to and there isn’t an unanswered e-mail left on your computer or you simply can’t bear to answer another one and there is no dignity, not a drop left, in any further evasion of the task at hand, namely writing, well, you can always ask your dentist for a root canal or have an accident in the bathtub instead.
And sometimes, when I’m reluctant to go to my desk, when I’m too pole-axed by fears to allow myself to surmount the not especially formidable obstacles I’ve placed between myself and my work, I recite a couplet William Blake wrote to get himself going:

If Blake could do this when he sat down to shite,
Think what he might do if he sat down to write.

And sometimes that actually helps! It helps to know that even Blake needed a little prompting now and then to get to work.
All I really know about writing is that if you’re a writer, writing is what you do. The work, intellectual, emotional, physical work, is everything—the means, the ends, the justifications, and the doubts, the ignominy, acclaim, disappointment, and elation, everything that can happen will happen only when and if you write. In the words of one of my favorite writer-writers, the great poet Czeslaw Milosz:

The goal of an artist is to be free of violent joys and sorrows for which he had time enough during his past life. At breakfast not to think anything except that he will go to his workshop, where stretched canvases are ready. He works on a few of them simultaneously, intrigued by a surprise emerging out of the movements of the brush. He knows what he looks for, what he strives for. And that is the whole reality, a detail seen once but constantly escaping, its nameless essence not touched by anybody. Practically this means to re-create trees, landscapes, people, animals, but always with the hope that the brush will find a proper trail.

That’s the most I have to offer tonight: take up your brush, or rather your pen, or turn on your laptop, keep writing, find proper trails!

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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A new book by Beth Kaplan, published by Mosaic Press – “Midlife Solo”

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