Originally featured on Elephant Journal February 28, 2018
“You’re free to write the worst sh*t in America. That’s how you’ll get better. Writing is an athletic activity. The more you practice, the better you get. People don’t realize—when you see a football team on television, they’ve practiced for hours before they’re on T.V. You don’t go on the tennis court and expect to be champion. But with writing? ‘If I don’t write The Great American Novel, I quit.’ Writing needs a large field, and a lot of practice.” ~ Natalie Goldberg
I love books.
I love the dry pulpy smell, the crisp feathery pages, the colorful covers, and the promise of entire new universes. At any one time, I’m reading about six.
While I adore getting lost in a story, we writers tend to give short shrift to our technical books. They get dusty, musty, and outdated. Reading books on editing often sounds like homework. They’re oatmeal when we only want to eat chocolate chip pancakes.
But what makes a must-have technical tome for writers?
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Originally featured on Elephant Journal April 1, 2017
I once read that big publications ask journalists to keep obituary drafts on celebrities so that they can quickly publish in the event that one of them meets their ultimate demise.
Although this seems morbid, it’s also practical. I was recently reading a 3,500 plus word obituary published within hours of the death of a public figure in Ireland, and I was struck by how deep and thorough it was. In comparison, the obituaries of beloved local members of my community—oft written by loved ones—were rather shallow and fleeting.
This bothered me.
We’re all a bit voyeuristic. I can’t be the only one who reads obituaries of people I don’t know and have never met. The obituaries that I find most touching are the ones that reveal the humanity and uniqueness of a person.
How did they live in ways like no one before them? What can I learn from their lives? What stories did they embody in flesh and bone that will live on in the memories and hearts of those still here?
I started considering my own life and what I want to be remembered by. There are the basic facts: name, date of birth, age, eventual death details. But aren’t we all more than just dates and numbers?
My brother and I have had a long-standing pact that we will write each other’s obituaries. He has the same infatuation with language that I have, and a keen ability to reveal truths.
But instead of leaving it all up to my brother (and to chance), I decided to draft my own obituary.
Let me be clear: I’m not doing this because I think we should live in a state of fear that death is around every corner; rather, we should live in the knowledge that life is full and…
Read the full article here.