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Regarding revision:

This was years ago. I needed a shove to get my novel written, and so I asked a friend if she wouldn't mind making a pact with me. I'd send her what I'd written each week and no matter what I sent her, she was to write me back "Great job, keep going." That was our pact. If I didn't send her pages in any given week, then... the pact was over. This makes no sense, i know. There were no real consequences, but somehow it worked and I wrote an entire novel this way, sending her my pages each week. Eventually, that novel found an agent and my book was sold to a publisher. When I wrote my friend to tell her my good news, her immediate response was "THAT piece of shit?" And I had to explain to her that she'd only read my horrible first draft and that I'd done three entire rewrites not to mention made countless small changes since those first ragged and terrible pages came her way. (I remember saying to her, "But you told me great job, keep going!" and her saying back to me "But you TOLD me to say that! Week after week, what you sent me was just terrible!") All of which is to say that all real writing is in the rewriting and that no one should stop writing a story because it is terrible.

Also, George, as others have written already, you are such a great gift to all of us here, a true mensch. Your tenderness is striking and I feel so very lucky to be a part of this group with you as our leader.

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That is a lovely story and outcome, not to mention quite encouraging! And I second your last paragraph. I just read "The Bohemians" for the first time, and the last part of it felt like a rocket made out of joy rising slowly and powerfully then morphing into a jay and flapping away.

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Thank you, David. Regarding "The Bohemians," I agree, that last paragraph absolutely flies. Do I understand that story? Not yet. I'd love it if George would analyze it for us...

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Thank you, Mary. The last paragraph, yes; but also what hit me so very hard was when this seemingly loathsome character (Ms. P.) is suddenly revealed as loving and compassionate and nurturing--wow! One of those moments when (as George suggests in A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, in the section that discusses "In the Cart") the narrator's life and mind are suddenly and irrevocably changed. This astonished happiness I believe the child was feeling also washed over me. (The story as a whole is also so fun, because it's kind of crazy and I had no idea where it might be going, and then I so loved where it ended up. I'm always moved when I think I understand what is happening and then it's revealed that almost nothing was what I had thought it was, and maybe especially when I suddenly see that a character is so much more than I had thought...just like, if I'm lucky, in real life!)

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Jan 7, 2022·edited Jan 7, 2022

Yes, what's amazing is that the story is so very beautiful and touching, and yet at the same time crazy and hilarious. It completely captured what it's like to be a child, and it also kind of shook me up--I mean, how many times have I judged a certain neighbor here on my own block, how many stories have I made up out of thin air about her history.... The things we don't know about other people.... That story is a small miracle. Oh, to write a story like that!

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I agree completely. The story came at me out of left field, grabbed me by the throat, and transported me to many places. I love how you wrote, "it completely captured what it's like to be a child." Yes! The madness of the world, of adults, and of other children--not to mention teenagers! A tour-de-force of childhood and its mysteriousness, woven together with adult mysteries. (And I like how the title works not just for the refugees from Europe, but also for children, who are Bohemian from the git-go, or at least until it gets hammered out of them.)

I just went back and reread George's "Worry" essay more slowly. Now that I have been able to read some of the comment threads, I am getting so much more out of it. I'm astonished that I somehow long ago concluded that stories must be perfect on the first or second draft. What George writes rings my head now like Quasimodo's bell: the beauty of a story depends on "the accumulating quality of those split-second decisions" "and in our willingness to go through it again and again." I am beginning to realize the difference between editing and revision, which I had not, it seems, known until now.

As my three-year-old would put it, "Happy!"

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Hey David. I was just now reading a piece on George in today's Guardian and saw the following, which made me think of you--the last line, in particular: “This is so corny,” he says, but one night, soon after he had completed A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, he “actually had a dream of the first four or five lines” of a story. He got out of bed, went to the kitchen and sat down to write. “I don’t usually do this. But I got all the way to the end of it at three in the morning.” He then spent a year revising.

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Yes, it took me by the throat - that level of cruelty - and what he does with it - and how - uncomfortable - the laughter. I find Saunders stories almost too painful to read, but i can't help myself!

I also went through the Worry post again after reading it - and had a few ideas. I guess I'm still not clear on the difference between editing and revision - I'll have to go back again - thanks for pointing that point out to me, which must have gone over my head!

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Absolutely. I loved it when Mrs. P so matter of factly dealt with his bedwetting. She came alive and real to me then, like the Velveteen Rabbit or Pinnochio. I thought, this kid will never want to go home. I also had the feeling that his parents probably wouldn't mind if he didn't. I agree, the ending was just perfect. He nailed it with the little turd on the raft going over the falls.

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What courage and commitment-generosity on both sides!

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I'm forever grateful that she made this pact with me--even though I was doing all the heavy lifting! Still, I can remember some Tuesday evenings when I'd yet to send her my work (due by midnight) when she'd write me and say "I'm waiting....." And knowing she was waiting helped so much in getting the writing done.

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Jan 6, 2022·edited Jan 6, 2022

I have been participating in an accountability group called The Daily Grind run by the poet, Ross White (who created the group with 4 other writers in 2007). Every month you sign up with Ross and he puts you in small email groups according to your medium (poetry, prose, new, revisions). Then every day for that month you email your daily pages to your group. The rule is that you have to send something every day (or risk being dropped from the group). While comments are not prohibited, they are not encouraged. He now has over 1500 writers participating. I joined 2 years ago and like you, I think having this daily accountability is something that makes a difference for my productivity. If anyone here wants to check it out feel free to send me a message through my twitter account and I'll forward you the invitation when it comes at the end of the month. @sadiebklyn

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Hi Sadie, that sounds like a fantastic group - I have followed you on Twitter but cannot message you. I'm @margaretwriting if you would incl me in the Daily Grind list at the end of the month. Thank you very much. Margaret

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@sadiebklyn Just followed you on Twitter. I'd love to join the accountability group. I was unable to message you on Twitter. I'm @cherrylchow If you can, can you plz send me a DM? Thank you so much!

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Sadie, I just followed you @aivlys99 so please send me a DM with the accountability group. Thank you!! Sylvia

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Sadie, thank you for sharing this great resource. I am interested and just followed you on Twitter. Happy Writing !

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I just sent you a dm in twitter….

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got it mary. look for an email from sadiejane at the end of the month.

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Thank you!

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What a great friend.

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oh i love that lynda barry story. I actually went to high school with her. She was a font of creativity in a world of convention--it was plainly obvious even back then.

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loved your story, keep sharing...and you said the word I was looking for, yes the tenderness towards us from George is so comforting...

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Jan 7, 2022·edited Jan 7, 2022

This is such a great story. Thank you! Also, for some reason, your friend's candor is absolutely hilarious. I will try this technique for writing my novel.

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what a fantastic pact, and a gift that when your friend was eye-brow raising at those early versions, she still honored her end and gave you what you needed so you could forge ahead. thanks for this story.

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What a fantastic story. thanks for sharing Mary g.

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I am going to have a friend do this for me. Great idea, Mary!

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Oh, that's great. The main thing for me was that I didn't want any comments from her (or anyone) on the content itself. I didn't want to know that she thought such-and-such a character sucked or that the plot was going haywire. I just don't think a writer should have those sort of criticisms thrown their way when working on a first draft. So, keeping it at "great job, keep going," was what worked for me. Good luck! I know you can do it!

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Thank you! I agree with the Stephen King process as he shared in ON Writing--get the first draft out and then go back. :)

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and also Anne Lamott's famous " shitty first draft ".

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founding

What a wonderful story, and a very creative idea! Thanks for sharing it, Mary!

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Sorry I'm reading more comments below and thinking about how the agreement with your friend makes so much sense. What scares me - makes me worry about writing - is that people want to read it. Friends... if I mention anything about writing at all. And I worry more than anything that my friends will hate what I write. And the sharpness to that is how deeply it can cut. As if perhaps their comments or thoughts not liking my words will be not only about the writing but also about me. And I don't even have a strong ego. But somehow being able to take one's writing and place it on a table in front of us (despite there being so much of ourselves in it) is a smart way to think about it so that we can take our worry and work and make something of it!

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well, friends want to be friends, and asking to read your work probably strikes them as a friend-thing to do. But early drafts are not for friends. And yes, sharing your work at all--later drafts, included--is scary. There's your baby in book form--and some people think your baby is funny-looking, or even worse--ugly. It takes courage to put yourself out there, to reveal yourself so starkly. But what a beautiful and life-affirming thing to do. I like the idea of readers telling the writer (of a draft) what they noticed in a story, as opposed to what they liked or didn't like. It's helpful information instead of dreaded judgment.

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That's great advice. I guess that's kind of what we're doing here...

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founding

Thank you, Mary! I agree.

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"Write" on, Mary! Exactly. Love that agreement you formed with your friend; brilliant.

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Thanks, Wendy!

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OMG! What a story. What a "friend." But yes to not stopping because it's terrible & I'm so glad you didn't ask whomever to give you notes. And congrats. What's the book?

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Jan 6, 2022·edited Jan 6, 2022

Ha! She is actually a wonderful friend and her comment at the time was hilarious to both of us. She's been a great supporter of my writing. The novel I mention in that post is called We Are All Fine Here and is now worth about half a penny on amazon.... (Look for Mary Guterson)

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I'm so happy to hear you're fiends. You were so smart to NOT ask for notes.

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OMG! What a story. What a "friend." But yes to not stopping because it's terrible & I'm so glad you didn't ask whomever to give you notes. And congrats. What's the book?

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Hahaha! She's one of my closest and dearest friends. You had to be there, really, to hear the two of us laughing at how bad my first draft was. She's truly the best.

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I was listening to a podcast last evening where one of my favorite book guys (James Mustich: 1000 Books to Read Before You Die) was talking about reading. How to read something we start, but cannot get into. Worrying that we made a wrong choice. Or aren’t smart enough to understand it. His advice was to envision it like wading into the ocean; you cannot see the whole ocean, but that’s ok. Just keep wading in. And writing seems like that to me. Just keep wading in. Float awhile with it. Go sit on the shore and view it. The ocean is vast. So are words. And meaning. We can get so lost.

I once had a hospice patient who was a writer in Cambridge MA. His home was filled with so many books and manuscripts. Floor to ceiling. He was an academic and very wise. But humble. I hated that he was dying. He was magnificent. And he equated death to books all the time. Talking about his last chapter. But extolling about the first chapters and how blank they seemed at first, but they filled in as he went, editing here and there. He told me the stories they held were a masterpiece, and to view life that way. As a masterpiece with good and bad and messy but with a loving thread throughout. Always search out the love. The kindness. And he said, never fall into the trap of worry, but respect it always when it appears. And do not fall victim to its charm. The worry. It’s telling you something. But just listen, adjust and move on.

I will never forget him.

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Thanks for this. My husband is close to entering hospice. I should be napping while he is. But here is better food. George's wonderful angle on and plunge into worry. Oranges, fresh and artificial (in another comment) - and reading the lively and insightful views of your now-very-alive-in-our-moment hospice patient. Thanks to you, for bringing his life into ours. I'm reading and rereading this. As a writer, as a wife.

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Bless this group and its shared wisdom and even more so, its compassion.

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Jackie, I hope you're surrounded by all possible support and comfort right now. Sending a hand squeeze across the ether.

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Feb 11, 2022·edited Feb 11, 2022

I have a happy update: in the past month, my husband has rallied! Doctors are not always right - and I learned a lesson here. He is currently enjoying a modestly decent quality of life, and now the docs are allowing the possibility of further treatment (CAR T cell therapy). There is currently no cure for multiple myeloma (or for mortality!) but with my husband's massive optimism, who knows - maybe he will manifest one in his lifetime!

Meanwhile my incarnation of the compassionate Avalokiteshvara is waving her thousand trunks.

My thanks -- to all here on this thread and Story Club and to George Saunders, for this warm and creative space.

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This makes my whole morning happy. Much love to you and your husband.

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Thank you for that - I am smiling! Thank you for your compassionate work.

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Jackie, I am sad to read this about your husband. But he has you and you sound terrific. And wonderful. What a gift.

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Well, Janice, I don't know about wonderful. Doing what I can, forgiving (when I can) what I can't. It's been a long journey here for him and for me. A big novelsworth. And we aren't at that last chapter quite yet. Like that (mostly) wonderful Bob Dylan song - It Ain't Dark Yet. Thank you thank you - for the work you do. Oncology nurses, too - what heroes. Maintaining a real warmth and cheer in the infusion center, and magnificent professionalism, with so many folk passing through, passing on. We love them. I wasn't going to bring this into the Story Club, this elephant in all my posts. Best to just say hi to Jumbo. Thanks for making that space - with your post. Ah. Breath. Possibility.

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The elephant is the most compassionate and necessary of land creatures.

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Ah - yes! That is very lovely - thanks for that deepening. I'm connecting to Jumbo in a whole new way now - wow! Kinda wish I hadn't named her Jumbo in that offhand manner. But then Jumbo historically - certainly knew suffering--compassionate. Buddhist elephant. Or an avatar of Ganeshini, seen in older statues, female. Hindu god Ganesha, male, god of beginnings and benevolent remover of obstacles--statuettes of him grace many a cubicle and car dashboard in Silicon Valley, where I used to work. Gassho, David! Namaste! Also--I'd call your observation and where it took me to -- an beautiful example of escalation.

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Ganesh is also the Cosmic Scribe and hence the Hindu god of writers :-)

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I’m so glad it was helpful!!

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Story Club is all about our stories. Otherwise, what well would we draw from?

I agree. Oncology Nurses are heroes.

Much ❤️ to you and your husband. I see miracles every single day. Do not let anyone steal your hope. Or his.

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Janice, I hope you won't mind but I wanted to tell you that my husband died August 11th. He was on hospice care for just six days. Didn't want to give up hope of the next treatment, whatever it might be (after 10 years of constant treatments). But the last couple weeks were magical - visits from his Minnesota family - mother and some of his many siblings - which he loved. And then going through death with him, all its phases, and spending time with him after. Elizabeth the night nurse came out and helped me manage through his agitation phase of active dying--and he was very active despite sedatives--and then more help over the phone -- all led his son and my daughter and me pouring out our love to him in his few final lucid (though silent) minutes - and a very peaceful passing. And then the full moon rose over the mountains. I mean to say! It was really a transcendent time, and I just wanted to let you know that you helped me, your blog, your compassion.

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Dear Jackie:

Thank you so much for taking the time to write to me. I’m so sad that your husband has died, but he went surrounded by so much love. What a blessing for him, and for all of you to have shared this time together. Much love to you.

Janice

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turning up to story club late, but I saw this and wanted to say how much I value and honor your choice to find the better food in these comments and readings, back at that point in January. I hope whatever is happening now that you are finding thoughts and stories that sustain you and your writing

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Thank you! Amazingly my husband is doing - pretty well. Despite the doctor's predictions of imminent demise! He is having more time than expected already - with fairly decent quality of life, and supportive care for symptoms from his oncology clinic. He is a determined son of a gun! Caregiving is ongoing, and having Story Club is a really wonderfully supportive activity for me.

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How fantastic! I love hearing of his determination and the unexpected time the two of you are getting, and how Story Club has been a respite. I'm recently re-learning how to focus and structure my writing time after caregiving for my husband (two medical emergencies this past summer, months of hospital and therapies). Diving into all the Story Club posts, however belatedly, has infused me and my thoughts about craft with welcome energy. At any rate, I'm so touched by your story, and sending heartfelt good wishes as another person keeping things going while still trying to honor a little space for their writing. Very best to you both!

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And my very best to you also - sounds like 2021 was an intense year for you both and I hope this year will be better. And I'll look out for you on Story Club, if I can - I'm not sure how to find people's posts. But - see you around at any rate!

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This brought to mind the great William Stafford's poem The Way It Is. https://gratefulness.org/resource/the-way-it-is-william-stafford/

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That is a fantastic poem; thank you!

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One of my favorites. Thank you for bringing it into my day.

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Nice. I like this poem. I see your point. Simple. Don't ever let go of the thread. Even when it doesn't (seem to) make sense.

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Mary, thank you for sharing this. I really connected with this poem. I feel like it captures what we are all trying to do here.

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I read this years ago and loved it then. Seems an extension of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

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love this one too. thanks for the reminder.

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Beautiful and profound. I hope you write this story so more can have this great man's wisdom! Lovely.

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I am hopeful to one day write about my experiences and all the wonderful people I have met in my over 40 years of nursing and hospice care. There is so much wisdom to be gleaned from the dying. People often read obituaries and wish they had met that person. They surround us, but we often learn too late. I wrote a blog for awhile, but I’m not the best writer. So I’m here to learn from all of you I wish I knew too. So much to learn every day.

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You know, there are great writers who have little to say and more stolid writers with stories galore--important stories. I've read both kinds of writers. Some are lyrical, beautiful... but others--I want to read those stories. So, I wouldn't worry about "not being a good writer" -- it doesn't matter so much. I worked at Zen Hospice Project for a while, accompanying the dying... I know you have amazing stories. I wish I'd taken notes while I was there. I hope you write your experiences and observations/learnings.

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I often feel a universe of love and thought vibrating within a person, and wonder, do I have the eyes and ears to hear it, see it, know it?

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Yes!

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Wow, Janice, I love your comment.

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Just read it again. What a beautiful story.

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such a beautiful memory and a wise soul. Love this idea of life as a masterpiece, threaded by love. That is the key, truly. To life and to writing. Thanks for sharing -

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Janice, your statement & elucidation of someone's elegance in living & experiencing both life & writing is beautiful; thank you for sharing this! Very inspiring, the two of you.

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Thank you so much for this beautiful and nourishing post!

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founding

Thanks for this Janice!

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Thank you for sharing this story.

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And you, with this post, have made us not forget. Thank you.

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Jan 6, 2022·edited Jan 6, 2022Liked by George Saunders

George, thank you for this. I’m a consummate worrier with stories, poems, and a novel that may never see the light of day. For years, I’ve languished as a writer, intimidated by the process and the publishing world, but infinitely more so by my own standards. Of the stories and poems I’ve published, I still don’t know what readers see in them. Journalling has become my hack; I journal when I have story ideas and then disregard these as meandering, pointless scribbles. I try giving myself permission to “float” in the ocean of my ideas (so aptly put by another commenter), but then deny myself the dive. My subconscious sees the darkening blue depths, the endless potential in certain ideas, but my conscious mind tells me I lack the gear to go deep, that perhaps I shouldn’t try. Maybe I don’t need the gear?

In this, my first comment in Story Club, I want to express my gratitude to you, Mr. Saunders, and to all the wonderful, supportive people here who have also invested in this free diving worry work.

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Peter, a snippet of story to encourage our stories, from the fable "The Lobster and the Crab" by Arnold Lobel:

The Lobster and the Crab began their voyage. Soon they found themselves far from shore. Their boat was tossed and buffeted by the turbulent waters.

“Crab!” shouted the Lobster above the roar of the wind. “For me, the splashing of the salt spray is thrilling! The crashing of every wave takes my breath away!”

“Lobster, I think we are sinking!” cried the Crab.

“Yes, of course, we are sinking,” said the Lobster. “This old boat is full of holes. Have courage, my friend. Remember, we are both creatures of the sea."

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I spend considerable time on boats, so this works. Writing is a lot like sailing, but I won’t strain yet another metaphor;)

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Here’s what I know about the dive…we always surface.

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I made a conscious effort to avoid reading the comments until I had first commented. So, reading this now, Peter, it seems you're expressing the sentiment--or at least a very similar one--that I was attempting to describe in my comment. I feel for you. I know this feeling well. I love your metaphor of the deep blue ocean depths beckoning, and your refusal t dive. I GET IT.

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Thx Christie. I find so much to agree and empathize with in the comments that I ask, what more can I add? Another trap I fall into;)

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Peter, maybe you can worry about all the gear you need to dive, piece by piece. And then you can...dive.

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I feel you, my friend.

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So well said. Keep diving!

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Peter, go on and dive ! I bet you will discover marvels down there, under the depths. You can always swim right back up but if you linger, I'm guessing hidden treasures await -

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Last night, I came across this passage from Danielle Ofri's book "What Doctors Feel" in a chapter about medical decision-making errors: "Guilt is usually associated with a particular incident and can dissipate when the issue is resolved. But shame reflects a failure of one's entire being. While guilt often prods a person to make amends, shame induces a desire to hide."

Guilt says that I caused a problem, whereas shame says I am the problem! Shame is a reaction to, as George quotes Wallace, the experience of not living up one's image of oneself. When I write and worry, I often struggle with separating what is guilt vs shame. Guilt would be "man, I botched this sentence but I got really good feedback and have a better idea of how to fix it." Shame is worrying about how readers will judge me, and about the very fact that I am a writer (as opposed to, say, a doctor who spends all her free time saving lives.)

But isn't shame the reason why I write? I think about the confessional nature of so much modern writing (from Augustine and Montaigne to bloggers and many physician-writers), and start to believe that shame is not something to be overcome but negotiated. If shame comes from disappointment, and disappointment is a natural part of being alive, then maybe shame is just a permanent fixture in the process of writing. As George writes, so much of it comes down to trust.

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founding

I had a similar reaction, except rather than shame and guilt, I got caught up in worry vs doubt. Worry has a tinge of hopefulness to it (I'm worried this won't work (yet fervently hope it will), I'm worried they won't like it (because there's the possibility that they will). Doubt seems devoid of hopefulness. It's almost as if worry and doubt occupy the same negative space, but worry looks forward to where it is lighter, and doubt looks backwards to where it is darker. I doubt this is any good, I doubt this will ever be received well, I doubt my writing will ever matter, I doubt I will ever be able to genuinely (and not ironically) call myself a writer. Worry is a positive energy force (it's looking forward), but doubt is a confidence killer.

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Thanks for this distinction, Mikhaeyla! This is so interesting to consider!

Doubt comes in many different shades for me. There’s doubt as a light skepticism (is this really true?) and the darker shades of self-doubt that you may be referring to here. The lighter shades cause me to pause and wonder and can be quite helpful (I doubt that ad about weight loss is accurate! I doubt my belief that I must be right!). Less helpful are the darker, heavier doubts that cause me to fully stop and crumple inward with that sense of hopelessness you mention - although I can learn from these, too, noticing where I’m stuck, perhaps in an incorrect belief about myself or the way things should be (in this way, doubting the unhelpful doubts can provide some relief!).

I agree that worry has its own qualities. I think of it as a more active thinking process – filled with “what ifs” and “shoulds,” attempts to avoid or solve problems. It feels restless, anxious, or busy, whereas doubt feels like a step back, a pause, or full stop. At their extremes, both can derail us, I think. But in their lighter forms, perhaps they both have a place and usefulness.

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Ugh. Shame with us to stay? Such a shitty houseguest. I'll never forget when in something like my sixth year of therapy with my "new" therapist, I said to new therapist (Jurgen), "I can't wait until I'm better (subtext being, 'and don't have to deal with this garbage anymore')."

Jurgen said, "You will never be 'better' in that way. You'll simply learn how to manage these feelings in more constructive ways."

Shock rolled through me. I was stunned, and tears sprang to my eyes immediately. It felt like too much to bear.

Shame with us forever? God, I really hope not. But, yes, noticing. Catching it. Laughing at it. All the tricks we learn to employ... And self-compassion. Hugging the child inside of us, soothing it.

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There's a really good book by Tara Brach called Radical Acceptance that helped me with the toxic shame --NOTHING is wrong with you. Prolly didn't ask or need a new book recommendation but it really made a difference for me in therapy and life.

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I love Tara Brach. She is so healing.

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She is truly calming to me. She has a lot of You Tube talks that are great as well

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I like book recommendations. Thanks for making one, Patty! I have one on this topic as well. Here's my reivew of David Burns's Feeling Great: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/QXuspfvLnMJoXrsDG/book-review-feeling-great-by-david-burns-1

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I will check it out thank you Fei!

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I needed that recommendation. Sounds perfect. Thanks!

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I can relate to this right down to my mitochondria. What helped me the most to get a clear picture of myself as a kid, that kid that I carry around still today, was Pete Walker's books. I really loved: HOMESTEADING in the CALM EYE of the STORM: A Therapist Navigates His Complex PTSD. He's got a unique way of being candid about his experiences as a human, especially as a traumatized kid in a rough family environment, and how they led him to become a psychologist.

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Richard this is so good.

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I find Elaine Scarry’s definition of pain to be helpful in distinguishing guilt from shame. Two aspects of pain, she says, are that it has aspects of isolation without the comfort of privacy, and the exposure of the public without the comfort of community. I think we feel shame about what we write when our subject matter is tangled in an insoluble social context, something whose categories are mixed but not matched, like Borges’ library’s bad Dewey Decimal system: in short, inveigled protections against the recognition of hypocrisy.

If the very terms we use are pinioned under a killing-not-freeing false categorization, then the use of those terms will throw a dispiriting net of disorganization all around the place.

We feel shame not because we haven’t tried, but because our terminology is terminal.

With time and analysis, I sometimes discover ways to either define the terms such that words become constructive, instead of just constructs. . . Time, and Scarry people.

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I loved how Dorothy Allisons said in a visit to Colorado State when I was an MFA student there, "Put the shame on the page."

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"But isn't shame the reason why I write?" I'm so glad you wrote this Richard, and it rings absolutely true for me. Why I write, why I don't write, why what I write has (for stretches) never seen the light. Isn't it a relief to get older and to be, at last, able to convert some of the ever-present shame, and the criticism that comes with it, to problem-solving confidence and curiosity? Maybe it varies depending on one's depth of self doubt/shame, but I wonder whether this useful mindset George so beautifully expresses here surrounding worry can be arrived at through anything but time? Take your vitamins, writers!

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As two dear and wise women I knew once said, " We are all starring in our own movie." and

( I'm paraphrasing here ) : " Shame, like all the other emotions, gets to come along for the ride but it's place is in the way back. NEVER driving -- "

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Jan 6, 2022Liked by George Saunders

George, I don't know how you do it. So often writing advice is like this really deceiving fruit that I stick in my mouth and then it has that artificial orange taste to it. I follow multiple platforms for creatives that churn out advice from noteworthy people and so often I am trying to find just one little nugget that works for me. It usually doesn't. And often, it even makes me feel worse! I get that "Easy for you to say" attitude that causes a lot of doubt and confusion. But Story Club is different. Every piece of fruit I pick up is ripe and each orange section is better than the last. I think it's the taste of permission. Everything I feel as a writer is becoming a conversation, because the suggestions we share don't apply to just one aspect of this experience. I think about my basket of oranges throughout the day - on my commute or when I am making coffee or answering an email. These things we are talking about are digging at something deeper, more communal. I feel like I am becoming a better thinker, which in turn (if I'm lucky) will make me a better writer. One step at a time though :) 

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Laura, I know just what you mean about that artificial orange taste. That's such a great way to put it. Story Club *is* different. These are real oranges we're getting. You just know a real orange, it's unmistakable.

I'm thinking about the Zen story Salinger drops in the beginning of "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters", where Duke Mu asks Po Lo if he knows anybody good to go find him a horse, and Po Lo is like "I know a guy" and the guy, Chiu-fang Kao, ends up being so transcendently good at finding horses that he ignores the mundane details of the duke's horse order and brings a different-looking but spiritually excellent horse, confounding the duke but thrilling Po Lo.

I've jumped from your perfect orange analogy over to horses, but horses or oranges, we're getting the real thing in here. Our eye is being directed to the real prize.

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Thank you for mentioning Salinger. He seems to be out of favor now, but his stories of the family Glass saved my life more than once!

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The Glass family were my boon companions, too. J.D. Salinger is keeping a place of honor in my heart no matter what.

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Oh yes, I remember fondly! Thank you for finding a way to link the two.

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"Everything I feel as a writer is becoming a conversation." love this

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I love your post! sweet oranges - artificial oranges - so hits home! Baskets of oranges - George and Story Club -- they're the real squeeze!

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So well put.

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I think I’d do well to re read this bit once a month with a cup of tea. Thanks from a frequent worried artist. xx

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Wish I could give this 5 hearts - you said it!

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And as writers of all sorts, we're also "worry artists."

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This might seem weird but last night I finished watching the first episode of Peter Jackson’s Beatles doco. In it, Paul and George are wrangling over something as they ‘workshop’ writing a song. Paul says ‘you’re making it too complicated, make it simpler’(insert some technical words about guitar playing here). ‘Make it simpler at the beginning then we can make it more complicated later.’ George couldn’t get it. It made me think of my writing and how sometimes I try to make it too complicated — or ‘smart’ — at the beginning. This, and asking my thing what the problem is here, makes me realise it wants to be simpler.

John by the way just looked on.

I recommended the documentary for *anyone* interested in creative processes and how ‘mucking around on guitars’ and the playfulness and silliness of it (as they try to work towards their final album) can bring the gold. You see it emerging in real time and it is *entirely* thrilling.

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Now of course I’m *worrying* this comment is off topic. How can I connect it… I was thinking that worrying about making a thing a certain way inhibits the process. So yes, it dovetails with the idea of shitty first drafts and being open and playful and following the ‘what if’ and then revision after that. And that this doco shows that very nicely.

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I don't think you're off topic at all! That documentary showed the Beatles doing exactly what George is talking about here, putting in the work. Even The Beatles didn't write finished songs in one go. They worked them and worked them, revised and revised until they had, well, freakin' Beatles songs.

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They also took input well from others, like the producers that they hired. They were iterative and collaborative in the best ways.

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Great that you mention this, Jenny. I learned a lot about creativity from that documentary - I totally agree with what Brad and JS say about revision and collaboration. A couple of other things, too: a) they messed around a lot (even putting in nonsense words when they were short of lyrics, or mumbling b) they played other people's songs a lot, and seemed to learn from them c) they experimented with lots of different genres - they didn't just try to write 'Beatles' songs' and d) they sometimes didn't know when they'd come up with something amazing - did you notice that they all seemed to think 'Let It Be' was a bit rubbish?!

I'm going to see if I can't bring some of those things to my writing. Thanks again for bringing it up.

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It’s spot on.

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This is perfect. Sometimes my head feels so crammed with writing advice--all of it's good, but contradictory--and excellent novels I hold up as models that I find myself trying to stretch all the time. But then I find I've lost my way, and I read what I've written and I'm like, "Wait, what?" So this is actually perfect--make it simpler. You can make it more complex later.

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Just saw this bit last week too!

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I haven't watched that yet but I am a big Beatles fan and love to hear them talk about how they created their works.

In a related experience, I just watched The Green Knight movie, the new one with Dev Patel. While I thought he was wonderful in it and there was much to like about the movie, the one thing I found off-putting and disappointing was how the writer/director abandoned the original story to go mucking about with extra complications that, in the end, IMHO, only detracted from the powerful "spine" of that original story. I love adaptations when they work; but they often don't work when the adaptor overcomplicates what was rightly "simple."

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Jenny - same thing happened to me when I watched the Jackson doc! I found the first chunk slow going but I just relaxed into it and soaked it up, and parts two and three were riveting. I so identified with the process I was watching. “Thrilling” is just the word for it.

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Yes! It was absolutely fascinating and delightful to see their creative process!

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The whole time I was reading that I was worried it would end.

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And look what happened!😉

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I had exactly the same experience.

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This is great. My first staff writing job in television was with Norman Lear's company and my office was surrounded by incredibly talented writers from all his wonderful shows (All in the Family, Maude, The Jeffersons, Good Times, etc.). Two of the Maude writers, Bob Weiskopf and Bob Schiller (veteran comedy writers, who also wrote on I Love Lucy), must have passed by my office and seen me staring worriedly at my typewriter (this was early 70s) because later I found a note stuck to my machine that read: Don't think... Write!

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Such a warm gift for a young writer.

What a generative period of creativity that era was. And Norman! What a human. I’ve had the honor of meeting him a few times, and interviewing him too.

Your description makes me want a “My Favorite Year” type story to read about those days you lived. Nice to meet you here.

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I'll second the "My Favorite Year" request. (An all-time favorite movie.) What an era to be writing! So much ground-breaking work. Comedy really requires flow. I tend toward more humorous prose, but when I *try*, it's usually not funny. Usually I just start writing, and then I'll get to a point and let out a startled guffaw at something I've just done, and realize I'm right on track. But then of course I worry that it's only funny to me.

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Thank you, George Saunders, for your kind, thoughtful, amusing and important suggestions. My history is to blurt out or as you say, fail to revise, something off the top of my head, in reaction, usually, to a real or imagined threat to my privately held sense of what's right or wrong. The result is that even here, in this (so far) benign crowd of eager readers/writers, I've already elicited the response of at least one person who is thankful there are not more like me. That was not my wish--- as I face the words I wrote in the morning light, especially after your message to us today, I see that some revision could have created a less personally aggressive response.

And since this is a writers group, may I say that I wish I'd revised my comments because I was hoping to convey certain points about American culture and indoctrination, not pick a fight. Until "recently", American literature describes people with an ethnic or racial category only if they are not white. The given is that to be American is to be white. The unwritten and perhaps unaware result of this way of thinking is that if you are not white, you are not really American. I am third generation American, and though I look Asian, I am clumsy and out of my element when visiting Japan. I'm never more aware of being American than when I am in Japan. I wonder if the couple in the Hemingway story are behaving like that, too.

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Masako, I think this is an overall safe place to blurt out what pops into our heads; somebody will always be offended due to their own issues, not yours. I saw the comment you are referring to and was taken aback by the unkindness. I don't think your post was 'personally aggressive', while the response to it surely was (and does not represent the spirit of this group). You are so right about American literature being predominantly white (and male); publishing is finally changing, if not fast enough. I hope you will continue to use your voice to call out white privilege when you see it without feeling obligated to do so as part of any group (i.e. Asian Americans) Only you can tell your story.

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You are kind and compassionate. This is my first writing group or workshop or class, and I'd hoped I could speak out, get criticism in a productive atmosphere. I like George Saunders' writing personality and his encouraging voice. I may not speak out as quickly in the future, but I will stay with it for now.

I was born in a concentration camp in Utah during WWII because my grandparents were born in Japan. I don't walk around thinking about what I look like, but when others see me they respond to an Asian woman. In America I am not always treated like an American, and when abroad I am not usually taken for an American. This last is not always a disadvantage. But it may influence what I want to write about.

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Jan 7, 2022·edited Jan 7, 2022

Masako, I'm struggling to find the words, so I will just say: I'm listening. I appreciate your voice. My heart is with your family as I sit with the broken history of our country. I believe that bearing witness is the first step of enacted compassion, and when you tell your story, we have the opportunity to listen, and have our hearts and minds enlarged. We can all be better for that. And that's one of the biggest gifts in the work we're wanting to be about here.

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I was raised to think of America more as a mosaic, rather than simply broken. But today, January 6th, 2022, it does appear more broken. I should turn off the news, but I cannot look away. I appreciate your confidence in ideas and points of view.

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Masako, it does feel broken, for me, much of the time. Or perhaps America is filled with people who are broken. I keep hoping for our wounds to heal, but perhaps that will take the best of everyone, working together, pulling together toward some form of light. Ridiculously optimistic, perhaps, but then again, why not? It's possible to go up (and grow up), even if that's infinitely more difficult than to go down the drain. Thank you so much for your words.

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In the spirit of revision, yes! Broken isn't the best word. This nation's history is complex & has woven into it the full spectrum of human behavior, both it's best and finest, and aspects of its worst.

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Jan 8, 2022·edited Jan 8, 2022

The word that comes to me is heartbreaking. Maybe that's why it was so important to those who wrote the history books to keep out the heartbreaking parts.

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Growing up in NYC, the idea of a melting pot was promoted. That didn't feel right to me. The image that I got was a salad. Then I sometimes got the image of a weaving still being woven.

As I try to live my life as spirituallly as possible, I've imagined that what is happening in the US is a spiritual battle. A battle between the openhearted and the closedhearted.

I see humanity in the throes of evolving from the 'survival of the fittest,' from the 'dog eat dog,' from the 'cutthroat capitalism' paradigm to a new paradigm. I see the rise of compassion, of acknowledging that, like it or not, the only way we will survive is by caring about the entire web that is creation.

You can see this in the idea of 'stakeholder capitalism.'

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I grew up with the Melting Pot indoctrination as well. I believed it because that's what I was told. The idea of Democracy was taught to me as a given, as well. It's only now, as an older person, that I recognize these two things as ideas only, ideas that need consensus to be real.

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Masako, I haven't read the comment your referred to yet, but I trust what Helia said about it. I'm compelled to respond now to say, Please, continue to be so brave in expressing yourself about American culture and indoctrination. Please, please, please!

You are not alone. I have been grappling with this issue most of my life as well. Except that, in my case, not being ethnically identifiable physically has allowed me to live as "a covert agent of the oppressed among the oppressors." Ha, ha. As a result though, I suffer from being so careful of how I express myself to the point of being afraid to express myself truly.

Your courage to speak out truly is an inspiration to me. And now is the time for us to do that, speak bravely about the truth of our experiences in the grand experiment that is the USA.

And this is the place to do that. Why? Because this is a GEORGE SAUNDERS creation, this Story Club group. We change the world by being open to each other no matter how much it hurts.

Look at this quote from Joel Lovell's introduction to George's book of short stories, Tenth of December:

"the effect that Saunders's fiction has on you. It 'softens the borders,' as he put it in one of our conversations. 'Between you and me, between me and me, between the reader and the writer.' It makes you wiser, better, more disciplined in your openness to the experience of other people."

You want to know who is George Saunders? Read this, https://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/06/magazine/george-saunders-just-wrote-the-best-book-youll-read-this-year.html

The universe had brought us the perfect teacher to help us be brave.

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You sound like a kind person with a lot to say--- just say it--- then revise! Reading your comment and many others makes me extremely happy I enlisted in this George Saunders bubble. Thoughts and comments from so many varied and verbal minds could not be possible in another context!

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beautifully said

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Wow, thank you...

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Thank you for the link! To soften the borders between us--- what a gift, what a goal.

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Masako, I too have a tendency to say the first unfiltered thing that comes into my head at times, especially when excited or agitated. I can't tell you how many sleepless nights I've spent wishing I could go back and revise something I've said or done. If only life were more like writing, in that way (but wouldn't I be less myself, with endless self-edits?). I'm so sorry if I've misunderstood your comment, but it sounds like someone had a negative response to a response you had to the Hemingway piece . . . and I just want to say that that's ok. You were sharing what was meaningful to you. Sometimes, even with the best intentions, no matter how we word things we may offend someone else. When I'm worried about eliciting a bad reaction, I tend to withdraw entirely. But deep down I know I'm doing a disservice to myself, and perhaps to the broader conversation by withholding my own thoughts, even if they might make someone else uncomfortable.

I also have this tendency to relate things others say back to myself, which I know can be annoying for many. It's my way of trying to say--I hear you, and I'm trying to let you know this by connecting with what you're saying. Your comment made me want to share a bit about myself (if unwelcome, forgive me!). My mother is Japanese, from Japan. My father is Polish-American. I was born in Seattle but spent most of my young life just north of Atlanta, and I grew up thinking "where are you really from" and "where are your PEOPLE from" were reasonable questions from classmates, from teachers, from strangers. I identify strongly as Japanese in some ways and have spent part of my life living in Japan, but I will never fully be Japanese (or accepted as such), just as I will never be fully American. This is a strange place to inhabit, neither one thing nor the other, this constant sense of "otherness." I've been wrangling with what this means to me all my life. In certain spaces, there's a heightened awareness of my otherness, or at times I am made uncomfortably aware of it by others. I am also quick to notice when there is someone else in my presence who might understand what that's like. I think what I'm trying to say is--in this large group of people it is nice to see someone a bit like me, too.

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I understand this somewhat, and I tried to make the same point about the American couple in the Hemingway story. I'm an American expat in the Netherlands. I'm white. But often, especially in the first year, I found I didn't even have to open my mouth for someone to treat me like an American. It's a subtle thing, too. But people who have always lived here can see it in how you dress and how you walk and how you carry yourself. And I also found that first year that I was clumsy and unsure and grew more so as I felt more and more foreign. And you become foreign to yourself, too. You can't trust the simplest things about yourself, like how you carry yourself. It's giving something away. And it makes you long for something to make you feel at home. And so it's not the same at all as not feeling at home in the country you were born in (and I am sorry, so very sorry that has been your experience), but it's something.

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Jan 6, 2022Liked by George Saunders

What a great disection of self doubt. Actually it applies to almost any worthwhile endeavor. I one had an extremely successful business owner confide to me that He's still plauged by the nagging worry of folks seeing through his facade. He self realized that deep down, all the wrong moves He'd made over many years indicate He's not really a shrewd businessman, just really good at playing that role. Your solution George, keep plugging away at it, reminds me of one of My Dad's favorite sayings. Dad used to say "Do something even if it's wrong" . Sounded stupid to my all-knowing 20 year old self. My 60+ year old self has finally figured out that Dad really meant not giving in to paralyzing inertia. Something like Thomas Edison inventing the light bulb. First He had to figure out a bunch of things that didn't work until he hit on one that did.

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Yes, paralysis analysis. It's shocking the amount of time I've wasted dithering.

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Further to the topic of worry and self-doubt, I've always loved this tremendous reading by Benedict Cumberbatch of Sol DeWitt's letter to Eva Hesse. It's funny, moving, and apt.

"In 1965, Eva found herself facing a creative block during a period of self-doubt, and told Sol of her frustrating predicament. Sol replied with this letter."

https://youtu.be/VnSMIgsPj5M

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Fantastic! Wow.

It reminds me of this letter too:

A Letter to Agnes De Mille from Martha Graham

There is a vitality,

a life force,

a quickening

that is translated through you into action,

and because there is only one of you in all time,

this expression is unique.

And If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.

The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine

how good it is

nor how valuable it is

nor how it compares with other expressions.

It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly

to keep the channel open.

You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.

You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate YOU.

Keep the channel open…

No artist is pleased…

There is no satisfaction whatever at anytime

There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction

a blessed unrest that keeps us marching

and makes “us” MORE alive than the others.

– Martha Graham

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This makes me think of what one of my favorite writers/artists Lynda Barry says to students who worry about being "authentic" or "original." She says that you can't help but be the writer/artist that you are and one of the best ways to discover what that is - is to create, create, create and imitate, imitate, imitate the other creatives you love because when you do, in the "failure" to copy them exactly will emerge your style.

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Love, love, love.

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Thank you, that’s spot on!

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I so love this quote Kelly, thank you for sharing it. I painted this on my daughters bedroom wall when she moved home and was struggling with her music & confidence. (she's a song-writer in LA) . She later tattooed ( in my hand-writing, long story) " Keep the channel open" under her heart. <momsigh> but it is so relevant to all of us. It's not up to us to " judge" but to keep the channel open, to allow the flowing..

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This is wonderful, and I think great advice to give to one's characters as well. Thank you for this, Kelly!

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Love this quote so much!

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Oh, Janice, thank you for sharing this gem! (Isn't it wonderful how these posts enrich others?!)

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I'm glad you enjoyed it. I go back to it again and again.

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I have a feeling l will too!! And I'll be sure to share it, thanks to you. :)

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This letter, and the reading of it, are just about the best things ever. Thank you so much, Janice!

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I love this! Amazing. Thank you, Janice!

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Jan 6, 2022·edited Jan 6, 2022

I think my worry stems from not having an MFA or any kind of 'qualification' in creative writing - most of my learning comes from close reading. So, the thing I often forget is that a published piece of work has had many careful readings and helpful suggestions by editors and others, to get it to the point of publication, and my solitary attempt is never going to measure up to that. So, the idea of just trusting my own instinct and that being 'good enough' is very liberating.

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I always say there are two MFA fallacies: 1) you have to have one to be a writer and 2) everyone who gets one will be a writer.

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This reminds me too of the elitist idea that if one doesn't have a college or university degree, one can't write or isn't somehow validated or should be considered "smart." I hate this, I do. Some of the most brilliant people I know have never been to college. But what separates them from others is that they're curious. Intellectually curious. They are voracious readers, they ask really good questions, they possess open mindsets. And conversely, I've known people with many letters after their names who are abject jerks. And much less than brilliant, or even what I would call "smart." So, George, thanks for this bit on fallacies. Nothing could be truer.

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As a bricklayer turned writer I feel this every day!

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I'm pushing 80 and have yet to write a "perfect" short story. Teaching for 50 years left me little time for my own creative interests. Here I am sequestered against the Red Death and I find myself unfocused and distracted and the last thing I want to do is write. But I read further on in these comments the encouraging words--just write the first shitty draft (thanks Anne L.)and jump into revision. Thanks for all your thoughtful responses here. I'm quite riveted.

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I'm pushing 60 and only started writing a few years ago. I don't think about "being a writer" (I'm past having those kinds of aspirations!) I just think about trying to write this one novel and like you would like to make it perfect. I do worry. I worry about my poor characters. What will happen to them if I don't finish? That keeps me going...

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I love this. I'm almost 67 and am still working on various writing projects. I'm thinking that age has nothing to do with this, except as I'm cutting down on teaching so many classes, I hope to find more time to devote to it. But it's not just time.....it's also about carving out those moments to just do it, regardless of how busy we all are.

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Jan 6, 2022·edited Jan 6, 2022

From another Golden Oldie -good luck with the drafting! And hey. It's never too late to learn, right? Onwards!

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Me too!

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There is no "perfect" short story for anyone not named Chekov. In my experience, writing a story is walking through fog. You see dim shapes through the fog, then you walk a little closer and things get a little sharper, then closer and sharper and so forth. The point is that a first draft is not meant to be perfect. It's something that lets you see your story a little clearer than just thinking about it, then you start going over it and you see things clearer and deeper than you did first time, and you just keep doing it until you hit that puzzling point where you can't think of anything else to fix or add. At that point, it's hard not to be snowblind to your own work so you let someone else look at it and see if it does what you wanted it to do. It's all incremental, but it doesn't get clearer until you start putting words down on paper. Can't win if you don't play, as they say...

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I love this metaphor for working out a story as walking through fog. seeing the dim shapes. And I also think “perfection” is not the bench mark we want to be using. What makes a story really good is often it’s imperfectness. It leaves us confounded, perplexed, wanting more, wanting to argue or dissent. I think cat in the rain is a great example of this. Whether we liked it or not, it generated some great convo.

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Well said.

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Getting my MFA was one of the biggest self care acts of my life. However. Not to sound awful but there were quite a few people I workshopped with-- I did not respect their work. And there were an equal number for whom I held awe and great affection for both their work and for them as people/artists/writers/yeowomen of the craft etc. I'm sure this does sound awful anyway but my point is that the MFA is not a magic bullet for feeling like you are worthy. I felt the EXACT same way you feel prior to getting mine. Once I got there I found a community of writers which my partner jokes I paid for my new artsy friends through the teeth ha ha we are dark humored over here--I love what you said about the published piece being through many wise eyes and eager hands--I often think that when I falter. You belong you are the only one who can write what you write. On the great good earth and in the universe! I say---explore!! XOXO

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That's really helpful and kind. Thank you Patty :)

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I have that worry, too, but maybe we can cobble it all together in this great class and other classes and experiences.

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"I think my worry stems from not having an MFA or any kind of 'qualification' in creative writing - most of my learning comes from close reading."

I was thinking the same for a very long time - until I realized most of my favorite writers didn't have any MFA oder other qualifications either. They all learned from close reading and writing themselves. So at least I thought that this is quite encouraging. :)

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Ulka, your writing mind is an iceberg. What you're aware of is just the tip. I've spent my life craming my brain with an emorous amount of stuff I have no idea will be of any use or not, but it's atoms that my unconscious mind will slosh around and turn into molecules of a story when the template calls for it. I've also found that consciously working on a story problem is really only useful when you've ruled out everything you can come up with, and after that, your unconscious mind will start churning away on what you haven't thought of and start spitting out possibilities. They may only be half-answers that get you part of the way to a solution, but at least it gives you a new point to plug away from. Trust your mind and let it work while you work on something else. It will get you there eventually.

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Thank you for taking the time to respond with such a supportive and helpful comment. Appreciate it ! :)

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This post made me cry a bit, it was so tonic. Somewhere in me there’s an influence that says “A wish to do the thing beautifully” is a bad thing, somehow. Egotistical, the wish to make a great thing.

Two worries meet:

1. I won’t do the thing beautifully. (All the fantastic Jedediah + Slim prairie-crossing advice feels so good for that one.)

2. I will somehow do the thing beautifully after all and that will cause something strange to happen, and maybe something bad.

When you talk about how the story knows things about itself and wants to communicate, it feels like a door opening onto a large, mysterious place, an intelligent place. A big, humming, lively unknown.

Maybe there’s an existential fear of interacting with this place, even if it’s benevolent? Does this make any sense?

Anyway. Thank you, thank you. What beats receiving wisdom like this from a great, kind teacher? Not much.

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I do a lot of thinking about the negative, life-clogging results of NOT doing/trying the beautiful thing (Re your item #2, above).

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Life-clogging, yes, that’s what it feels like when I briefly ponder giving up.

Not trying has stopped feeling like an option so I guess that leaves staying open to weirdness and nebulous danger.

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"...weirdness and nebulous danger." Love this.

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So writing is a laxative? Get that word dump out?

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Tina, I used to live by number 2. Hid myself creatively for decades. And then I couldn’t live with not risking anymore. I leapt. Nothing bad happened. In fact the opposite. I found a belonging within myself. I’ve decided to live in a benevolent universe that is looking for creative leaps so that it can play too.

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Kelly, that’s the best call. I’ve made that call for myself in that I’ve been working for years on my novel, the story I most passionately care about—and my wheels do seem married to the tracks going forward—but the old fear that I’m breaking some deep covenant makes noises from within and slows me down sometimes, even to a stop. I never change directions but I do just halt.

Last year I chose the word “focus” to guide my year. I think it helped me get a first draft all the way out. For 2022 I’ve chosen “believe”, as corny and embroidered-pillow-y as it is. I’m choosing to believe every possible benevolent notion that can drive me forward on the tracks—however wild and however briefly—because I’m going to believe *something* anyway, whether I’m aware of it or not.

I like this universe looking for creative leaps that you’re describing. I really like the thought that we can help it play. Thank you. :)

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Tina - “Believe” is such a potent stance. I too have stepped into that word to move my creative life forward. First to get myself on stage with my solos show, then finishing my memoir. Now it’s about believing I have a new thing that wants to be born even though I can’t quite see it yet.

You’re right, we’re going to always be believing in something, so let’s believe in a universe that has our backs. I mean, we know there’ll always be challenges and obstacles in life, why construct extra ones?

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I’m always believing in a universe that has my back *to a point*. Like, “We’re glad to help with this and this and even this other thing, but Tina that’s THREE THINGS NOW. We wish you well and all but reel it in.”

This setting seems, uh, ripe for an upgrade.

All life and strength to your new thing, Kelly. So cool, that moment when something wants in and we don’t know yet what it is.

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I wrote last night for about half an hour--it was with abandon using Kathy's John Cage quote, 'Begin anywhere...' It was so freeing and beautiful to be in that state. I felt I could expand to embrace the whole universe with emanating wonderfulness. Now, that scared me to death. I'm definitely in #2.

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Dude. I'm so superstitious it's crazy. I have all sorts of rituals when I sit down to write. That 2. --- so apt and frightening. I'm going to be thinking of your post for a while thank you so much!

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Patty, I am, too. It's been ritual city over here. I'm just lately wriggling out of some of them because they were starting to be an obstacle. I can't have to do ten things before I write anymore, good grief.

I'm glad you get it!

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Thank you for understanding. Love this place! <3

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