Rilke and Viorst
Strange bedfellows, I know. But these two people – born over a half century apart – have been constant companions on my journey as a writer. I’m often asked in interviews what advice I would give to new and upcoming authors. Almost invariably I turn to one or the other of these authors.
Rainer Maria Rilke is a German poet born in 1875. I fell in love with his poetry in college and was introduced to his brief volume, Letters to a Young Poet. In it is a paragraph I typed (okay, this was before the computer age) and pinned to the bulletin board above my desk:
“You ask whether your verses are any good…You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you - no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must," then build your life in accordance with this necessity.”
Click HERE for the rest of the quotation.
Judith Viorst (best known in our house when the kids were little for Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) I heard speak at a conference. I haven’t been able to corroborate this precise story on line, but what she told us was that she started submitting her work for publication when she was still a teenager, and it was another fifteen years before she ever received an acceptance. I did find out she was born in 1931, and her first published work was not until 1962, and in a field unrelated to her creative writing interests. She worked for the government and wrote a book on the space program.
What do I take from this combination? Find what moves you, follow it with passion, and never, ever give up.
What moves you?