Inspiration – James Baldwin and the essay

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An essay is not simpler, though it may seem so. An essay is essentially an argument. The writer’s point of view is always absolutely clear. The writer is trying to to make the readers see something, trying to convince them of something. In a novel or play you’re trying to show them something. The risks, in any case, are exactly the same.

– James Baldwin

Inspiration Quote – Work and Contentment

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“Contentment is work so engrossing that you do not know that you are working.”

I found this quote in poet Donald Hall‘s book, Life Work, and like it because it describes the feeling of being so absorbed in work that you can enjoy it and do not see  it as burdensome. Work often has a bad connotation because it has become too associated with employment, compensation, titles, and performance.

I prefer a simpler definition, where work is purposeful activity that has the goal of making or doing something. It can be physical, mental, creative, or spiritual. Its value is not determined by the presence or size of a paycheck. Even when I needlepoint, which is handwork, I am content and engrossed in what I am doing, and eager to see what the outcome will look like.

How do you define work and what work do you find engrossing?

 

Inspiration Quote for June

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It’s June and it finally feels like summer here in northern Indiana. Summer comes with a chance to relax and delight in being outdoors but I also like to use these three months between now and the end of August to focus on a few projects. I have decided on three – one for writing, one for fitness, and another for fun. Deciding on which projects to choose wasn’t hard; one idea I had been mulling over for months. But getting started, now that can be the hard thing.

Last month I used a quote about beginnings and now that it’s time to begin, I have to admit that I am a little tentative because I don’t have all the answers and I don’t exactly know how this will turn out, especially the writing project. Just in time, I found this quote. It nudges me along, encourages me to press on.

I hope it does the same for the artist in you.

“We often procrastinate on creative tasks that can bring us precariously close to the edge of rawness—that sense of not knowing what will issue forth next— words written on the page, the colors on the canvas, the movement and emotions that arise from losing ourselves in the music. We may not know what to do with the grandeur of being alive in this moment.”

– Arnie Kozak in his book Mindfulness A to Z:108 Insights for Awakening Now

Inspiration quote for May

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I came across this quote while reading Julia Cameron’s latest book, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again. In June I am starting a couple of projects that I’ve been dreaming about for a while. It’s time to get to work and I am excited. Any dreams that you have been holding inside? It is time to begin…

“It has been said that success can be boiled down to two simple rules: 1. Start something. 2. Keep going.”

-Julia Cameron

On Reading – Inspiration Quote for April

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“What was the highest ambition of literature, the most one could hope for from the experience of reading? One possible answer, it turned out, had to do with a different approach to reading, one based not on a model of linearity, forward progress and accumulation, but on the idea that a reader should be stopped short, turned around, even undone by the text on the page before her.”

– Dana Stevens, from Bookends in The New York Times Book Review

Inspiration quote for March

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Every month I like to add a new quote, from something I have read or heard, to the inspiration section at the bottom of my site. Here is the inspiration for March:

“But ever since Montaigne, lack of knowledge has often served as the starting point for personal essays.”                          – Phillip Lopate

Inspiration quote for February

Every month I like to add a new quote, from something I have read or heard, to the inspiration section at the bottom of my site. Here is the inspiration for February; it comes from author Zadie Smith in her book, Changing My Mind – Occasional Essays.

Nowadays I know the true reason I read is to feel less alone, to make a connection with a consciousness other than my own. To this end I find myself placing a cautious faith in the difficult partnership between reader and writer, that discrete struggle to reveal an individual’s experience of the world through the unstable medium of language.

Here is last month’s quote:

I began to feel that aftermath is the terrain of the essay. I still feel that the essay, or nonfiction in general, is a great space to think about what happens afterward, that it allows the writer to work with a large swath of time, with the roots of events and with their wide repercussions.

-Aviya Kushner , from article in the journal MARY