We\’re always amateurs

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner\’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert\’s mind there are few. ” – Shunryu Suzuki, Zen monk and teacher.

Two writing degrees, years of practice, teaching and studying, I\’m still an amateur in writing and learning. And I think most artists and educators would say the same. Below are some of thoughts on the arts of writing and learning.

I couldn’t believe it. When I finished “Scantily Clad Submissive Women,” I felt both satisfied and wanting more. It worked, yet felt like it could keep going. Days later, while chucking away at my own writing, I thought of that crippled man on a porch, in a Hawaiian shirt, watching the women, while talking to [...]

Yesterday I was talking about the empathy of Walt Whitman, a fraternal spirit of equality that if we kept in mind would allow us to listen to each other and have discussions about big issues rather than shouting matches. However there is another side to Whitman’s empathy, that D.H. Lawrence points out: perhaps it’s just [...]

The right words to say the big things has been on my mind. I can yell at the top of my lungs why it’s wrong for you to believe ______. What’s harder is finding the right place in your mind for truly listening. Walt Whitman sets an example of how to do that. I’ve been [...]

Steve Almond was pissed. It all started with a discussion about The Best American Short Stories with his MFA writing students. To my astonishment, a number of students made comments indicating their disdain for the annual anthology. “Wait a second,” I said. “The stories in those collections are always great.” There was an awkward pause. Then one of them [...]

Monday was Chusok: the harvest festival when families get together and cook too much, eat too much, and remember too much. It’s good to be with family, and have a few slow days and decompress from the normal life of busyness and work. Well today, back at work, I stare intently off into the distance, not doing [...]

There are days when I try to write a single paragraph, and I get into a hole where I doubt every word, every comma, and the keyboard feels like hammers pummeling my fingers and breaking my joints. Sometimes I think that it comes from trying to write something perfectly original, but still looking like a [...]

When I was young I used to read the first line and the last line of a book. It didn’t matter if I thought it was a good or bad book, and by reading the last line of the book I didn’t really learn anything about what was going to happen. But for me, it [...]

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