Sunday, January 17, 2021

Bonnie and Seth

I really am trying to be better this year. I'm trying to make sure I read the books I got for this Christmas before the next one comes rolling around. This shouldn't be an unattainable goal, but as a reader I've always been flighty. The books I'm interested in today are never the same as the books I'll want to read tomorrow. 

You can see this in action by the strata of books piled up on my bedside table. From the bottom: I ran out of steam on The Glass Hotel, so I thought I might start reading Rex Stout, but then I read Frankl's The Unconscious God and thought I should re-read Man's Search for Meaning, but then Conning Harvard is due back at the library soon, but then, but then, but then …

Like I said, I'm trying to be better. And toward that end I've now finished Seth Godin's The Practice, a quick read that I enjoyed very much, and I've started Bonnie Friedman's Writing Past Dark, which I've read a bit slower but savored.

One of the great pleasures of reading, of course, is when one book speaks to another, and that's been the case with these two. Friedman's book was first published in 1993 and Godin's came out at the end of last year. But both take up questions of creativity, practice, and distraction, and so both voice similar truths.

I've pulled out a few quotes that feel like part of a larger conversation to me. I'm sharing them here without further comment:

“Most everyone gets excited by being noticed, connected, or truly seen. The essence of your art isn't that it comes from a rare place of genius. The magic is that you choose to share it.”
-Seth Godin

“Revision, I realized, allowed an ordinary intelligence to achieve greatness.”
-Bonnie Friedman

“If you want to change your story, change your actions first. When we choose to act a certain way, our mind can't help but rework our narrative to make those actions become coherent. We become what we do.”
-Seth Godin

“I had a choice. I could choose my way or not choose my way. Nobody else's way would deliver me into my own territory. You can't get there from here. You can only get more and more fully here during the time you are lucky enough to be here.”
-Bonnie Friedman

“We are in free fall. Always. Attachment pushes us to grab ahold of something. Attachment is about seeking a place to hide in a world that offers us little solace. But of course, the bad news is that there is no foundation. We're always falling. The good news is that there's nothing to hold onto. As soon as we stop looking for something to grab, our attention is freed up to go back to the practice, to go back to the work. The strongest foundation we can find is the realization that there is no foundation.”
-Seth Godin

“The answer to envy is one's own work. Always one's own work. Not the thinking about it. Not the assessing of it. But the doing of it. The answers you want can come only from the work itself.”
-Bonnie Friedman

People Watching

On Wednesday, I went out to meet up with a friend and do some writing. We met at the Athenaeum, a historic building in Indianapolis designed...