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Righting Writing

I just finished reading the truly amazing book "If You Want to Write."

Having been the sort of person who often endured, rather than enjoyed English class, I was skeptical. I expected a dry list of do's and don'ts from some college professor from the 60s.

What I got instead was an author who was passionate about me writing who seemed positively resolute that I had something useful to say, if not to everyone else, at least to myself. All this coming from a gentlewoman living in a house on Lake Calhoun at the turn of the last century.

To condense the book down to the barest of cliffnotes, here are her following points:

  • A fervent belief that humans are creative by definition.
  • Expressing this creativity is core to being a human (writing being only one possible method)
  • The best creative thoughts are borne out of a distracted peacefulness (never forced or willed).
  • The best method to improve a story is to put it away, write two different stories, and then look at it.
  • Your assumed expectations of your audience muddy your writing.

But best of all, the entire voice of the book is of someone who seems to have absolute faith in me and that it is important that I write. It has been 3 days, and I still have this image in my head, of a Victorian dressed lady with gloves and frilly dress giving me stern but positive lectures on how I really should find more time to write.

In any case, if writing interests you at all, or if you simply enjoy blinding following the suggestions of The Voltron Princess of the Internet, I recommend it.

Super Cousin

So my cousin Sunny didn't make it.

She was a month older than me.

It is still unclear exactly what happened. She was found in her office not breathing, and by the opinion of one doctor, was probably "gone" by the time she arrived at the hospital a week ago.

I was going to tell a story about her here, but then I read her husband's journal post here.

You should read that instead.

And at her husband's suggestion, I chose this song, which always reminded me of my MN cousin, living it up out in California:

Tullycraft - Secretly Minnesotan


In the beginning of the summer of 1993, my future wife told me that her father had taken a job in Texas, and that she'd be moving away at the end of the summer.

I remember her staring at me, awaiting a reaction.

My reply was that she was clearly incorrect. Something would intervene, and she would end up staying. I was sure of it.

Over the course of the summer she would bring it up, and I would, more confidentially each time reassure her that everything would work out, her father would end up coming back from Texas (where he had moved ahead of them) and they would end up staying here. Her only reply would be a silent look of concern for me.

And so it went, every time the truth caused that nagging sinking feeling I would shove it violently out of my head.

Eventually the day came that she was to leave, and while our other friends bid teary goodbyes, I hung back, confused. It was all wrong. Reality was clearly mistaken.

Eventually all I managed was to give a wordless nod towards her, and that was my goodbye.

She cried.

About an hour later I had my parents drive me back to her house and I said it out loud.

I tell this story because this weekend a cousin of mine who is very nearly a sister to me became suddenly and terribly ill.

She lives in California, and so it is all very abstract, and I feel those old impulses to deny such an incorrect and nebulous event. She is simply too kind a soul for this to be acceptable. The terrific suddenness of it seems more at home in a torturous fever dream than our world. And of course there is the cold fear that I will never get a second chance to say goodbye properly.

Say what you want about the effectiveness of willing invisible powers for aide. I can at least attest that it is far more comforting than the certainty that you are powerless to assist those you care about.