Before Puerto Rico, I picked up The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr. I've never actually read any of Karr's memoirs (though they are highly praised). And I wasn't even sure why I decided to pick up the book. An artist I admire recommended it. So I bought it, and proceeded to read it in 48 hours. Because it was incredible.
I've begun to share interesting quotes from the books I'm reading over on my Tumblr blog, which I recently re-named My Commonplace Book. There, I shared a bunch of quotes from Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic, as well as a ton of quotes from The Art of Memoir. Here's a few of my favorites from The Art of Memoir:
On passions and excellence:
You’re best at it because it sits at the core of your passions.
On being creative and productive. Not an easy feat!
Just apply your ass to the chair … and for 15-20 minutes, practice getting your attention out of your head… The idea is to unclench your mind’s claws.
To tap in to your deepest talent, you need to seek out a calm, restful state of mind where your head isn’t defending your delicate ego and your heart can bloom open a little.
On how to overcome a creative block:
Old-School Technologies for the Stalled Novice
- Keep a Commonplace Book
- Write reviews or criticisms
- Augment a daily journal with a reading journal
- Write quotes you find on 3x5″ index cards
- Memorize poems
- Write longhand letters to your complicated characters, or even to the dead
On being truthful, not just in your writing, but in your life:
Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point where he cannot distinguish the truth within him or around him, and so loses respect for himself. And having no respect, he ceases to love. — Fyodor Dostevsky
On the benefits of reading historically important work, not just the modern hits:
Reading through history cultivates in a writer a standard of quality higher than the marketplace. You can be a slave to current magazines or a slave to history.
On revision, ego & curiosity:
The point is to have more curiosity about possible forms the work could take than the sense of self-protection for your ego.
On the value of our lives:
None of us can ever know the values of our lives, or how our separate and silent scribbling may add to the amenity of the world, if only by how radically it changes us, one and by one.
If you're interested in writing a memoir, telling your own story or just writing in general, this book is a fantastic insight into the craft. If you're a fan of the genre, this book is a great way to see how the experts view it. And if you're trying to seek out a creative life, this is an excellent source of inspiration to see how others are living their creative truths. I highly recommend it to all.
(I'll be sharing more regularly about the books I'm reading. I have a huge stack of inspiration just waiting to be read.)