2.10.2016

Swimming is the writer’s sport, because it is the sport most like writing. To swim, as to write, is to choose an intense state of socially acceptable aloneness. You can be a serious runner or bicyclist and still have to occasionally nod at a passerby or negotiate traffic. Swimming, however, precludes interaction with the world.
... 
And yet both activities also cultivate a sort of mental busyness: If, say, yoga encourages the absence of thought, swimming encourages its presence. There is no better place to unkink a complicated piece of invented logic than in the water — there is little else to do, in fact, but confront your problems. If you are an open-water swimmer, the sport also demands a particular kind of mental discipline, one in which you must simultaneously indulge your imagination while also asserting control over it. The fear and exhaustion of swimming in the ocean is not struggling against the currents or tide, but the effort it takes to not notice how dark the water beneath you has become, and then, failing that, to assure yourself that it’s only the shadow of a cloud scudding above you. Nowhere but in the sea are you so ceaselessly reminded that something you love so much doesn’t care about you at all.
-Hanya Yanagihara, "A Brisk Swim Across Martha's Vineyard"

2.04.2016

"Poets and novelists and playwrights make themselves, against terrible resistances, give over what the rest of us keep safely locked within our hearts."
-Janet Malcolm, The Silent Woman
"We choose the dead because of our tie to them, our identification with them. Their helplessness, passivity, vulnerability is our own. We all yearn toward the state of inanition, the condition of harmlessness, where we are perforce lovable and fragile. It is only by a great effort that we rouse ourselves to act, to fight, to struggle, to be heard above the wind, to crush flowers as we walk. To behave like live people."
-Janet Malcolm, The Silent Woman

2.01.2016


"Writers must labor from a vague feeling, usually some large, old emotion, and in so laboring, come to understand the qualities of that feeling, and the source of it, and the reason they still feel it. That effort is practiced in a place typically insulated from even the idea of publication, and it depends upon a combination of exerting and relaxing one’s will over the writing.

The purpose of being a serious writer is not to express oneself, and it is not to make something beautiful, though one might do those things anyway. Those things are beside the point. The purpose of being a serious writer is to keep people from despair. If you keep that in mind always, the wish to make something beautiful or smart looks slight and vain in comparison. If people read your work and, as a result, choose life, then you are doing your job."
-Sarah Manguso,  "Green-Eyed Verbs"

1.29.2016

Autobiography is an exercise in self-forgiveness. The observing “I” of autobiography tells the story of the observed “I” not as a journalist tells the story of his subject, but as a mother might. The older narrator looks back at his younger self with tenderness and pity, empathizing with its sorrows and allowing for its sins. I see that my journalist’s habits have inhibited my self-love. Not only have I failed to make my young self as interesting as the strangers I have written about, but I have withheld my affection. In what follows I will try to see myself less coldly, be less fearful of writing a puff piece. But it may be too late to change my spots.
-Janet Malcolm, "Thoughts on Autobiography from an Abandoned Autobiography"