Thursday, May 22, 2008

One Continuous Mistake

Gail Sher

In One Continuous Mistake, Gail Sher describes the four noble truths for writers, they being:

Writers write.
Writing is a process. You don’t know what your writing will be until the end of the process. If writing is your practice, the only way to fail is not to write.

She approaches writing as Zen practice by expressing the idea that having the “right” intention is the key to being a writer.
By that she means having a regular practice of writing everyday and making a “single minded effort” to keep up the practice of writing. This single minded effort consists also of “plodding onward,” writing even when you don’t feel like it , are in a bad mood or outside distractions call you away from the practice.

Another reward of this effort is the deep satisfaction that comes from the regularity of the practice and the deep dissatisfaction that comes with abandoning it.

“I know a doctor who wishes he could teach literature. I know a lawyer who secretly writes children stories. I don’t know any writer, however, who hankers after an alternative profession. If you are a writer and you are writing, there may be problems but never doubt.”

Sher advocates that in order to be fully present during writing practice the peripheral aspects of the writer’s life must be managed properly so that there aren’t any distractions during the writing session. She explains that “right “ livelihood isn’t so much concerned with what a writer does for a living but what her “state of mind is able to cultivate while she does it.” A writer needs to find a job that supports her intention to write .

While most writers understandably dream of making their living practicing their craft, there are advantages to making your living in other ways.” such as not be isolated and not being motivated by the money to get things completed but letting it find its own pace."

The bottom line to writing as practice is the ability to “be there, but out of the way”, to show up at the allotted time and allow the subconscious to flourish. The title of the book refers to the idea that writing, like life, is about learning from the inevitable mistakes and not allowing these mistakes to cause you to stop the practice. It's from these “mistakes” that the most exciting aspects and the richness of life emerge.


Once again, Palabra Pura brought Chicago audiences a vivid, sinuous, muscular night of compelling poetry in the forms of Adrian Castro and Febronio Zatarain. Starting with a lively pre-performance dinner at a local Cuban restaurant, the conversation ranged from Yoruba spiritual practice to Portuguese poets and literary cannon. Zatarain's opening set was a moving pastiche of musica romantica sung in a whiskey voice, bracketing a look back at love and loss.

The night's featured poet shared work that radiated a strong connection, to the divine, to a living and breathing Afro-Cuban sensibility. Adrian Castro was a consummate reader, commanding, yet conversational and compelling. His work, infused with imagery of the natural world and its healing properties reminds us of the gods in us and around us. Both readers brilliantly illustrated the poetry in music and the musicality of poetry.

Bravo, bravo!

Lisa Alvarado

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good post, Lis.

I'm going to try to adapt Sher's truths for my first graders.