yards of silence: 141/365

I’m back in heavenly Provincetown, and I have 3 things to say.

1) I woke up this morning with the sun, pretty wide awake actually, but as it was just a little after five, I thought I’d try to go back to sleep. The next time I opened my eyes it was nine am straight up.

2) I’m still coughing but much better, and I had my first intentional exercise in over two weeks. I walked and walked–10,000 steps.

3) But here is what I wanted to get to. At AWP, at a panel, Arna Bontemps Hemenway read a portion of a letter from the poet Dean Young to his nephew, Seth Pollins. I made a note to look it up. I did that today and want to share some bits and pieces with you.

But one thing that won’t just happen to you, like life, is teaching yourself to write well. So whatever time you spend doing that, can stand to spend, and need to spend, all that time that seems wasted and those rare moments that seem volcanic and so sure, is the time that must be spent, otherwise you’ll never become the writer you want to become. And there’s a funny thing about that, too. One is that you’ll never become the writer you want to become. You’ll never be satisfied, never really know if you are any good. You’ll never be certain.

So don’t worry, Seth, you’re feeling what you have to feel, and as John Ashbery says, The reasons that religions are great is that they are founded on doubt. So you have to be the religion of yourself, which surely Walt Whitman said somewhere, and it sounds like you’re finding your way. Because it has to be YOUR way.

In my experience, the people who become writers are the ones who keep writing through the yards of silence and the years of discouragement.

Allow yourself to be uncertain, but don’t let your uncertainty turn to despair. It can be wonderful to write when you’re sad and full of the dark bouquet of doubt, but misery leads itself to silence and one must get out of bed every morning and prepare for the great celebration of one’s own imagination, even if it doesn’t happen that day.

There’s a lot of luck involved in being struck by lightening, so you want to make sure you’re holding a pen when it happens.


 365 true things about me
why this daily practice

11 thoughts on “yards of silence: 141/365

  1. Glad you are feeling better. Love the Dean Young quote you included, particularly this: “as John Ashbery says, The reasons that religions are great is that they are founded on doubt. So you have to be the religion of yourself, which surely Walt Whitman said somewhere…”

    So you have to be the religion of yourself. Yes.


  2. Wish you a wonderful time in Provincetown, time to get better, time to walk, time for yourself – and time to inspire us all – like you have done today. Thank you!


  3. Pingback: Wisdom | sub rosa

  4. This is a fabulous post! And just what I need right now. I spent five years on a novel, its fate now out of my hands, so what do I do next? Start another. The life of a writer. Doubt is such a huge part of it. Thanks for sharing this!


    • I’m so glad, Katharine. Sometimes what we do is so hard–years and years of so hard. And yet, there is nothing I’d rather do. By the way, the entire letter is worth a read…

      “There will be nights crossing bridges you don’t know the name of when some unspeakable beauty envelopes you. There will be nights looking from windows upon the staggered lights of some town when some unspeakable sadness envelopes you.”


  5. It’s amazing… I can visit this project and pick a truth at random and it’s the exact thing I needed to read in this moment. Your project continues to be a gift to me. I love the quotes you chose from this letter!


    • Sarah, each time you leave a comment, I reread my post before responding. I had forgotten being sick in May, and I had forgotten about this letter–which I should make a part of each morning. Now I’m off to spend the time that must be spent… Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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