I confess: every day I wake up, start the coffee, feed the dog, and log onto Facebook—
where, most mornings, I find Dinty Moore, who posts daily, not about what he ate for dinner, not by way of self-promotion (more often than not he’s promoting somebody else)—and not because he doesn’t have anything else to do (among other things, Dinty directs a writing program at Ohio University, edits Brevity Magazine, and, until very recently, sat on the board of AWP). Even so, there he is with a quote for the day, meant to inspire, delight, amuse, best of all to connect us to each other and back to the work—
and he never repeats himself. Never.
But most of you know something of Dinty, who’s not only one of the most generous writers and teachers around, but among the most versatile, too. The author of The Accidental Buddhist and Between Panic and Desire, he’s written across genre to give us a couple of indispensable books about craft, a novel, and an anthology to boot—
and now, here’s his newest, The Mindful Writer, 59 ‘chapters’ arranged in four parts—
The Writer’s Mind
The Writer’s Desk
The Writer’s Vision
The Writer’s Life—
in which he explores the relationship between mindfulness and writing as each practice informs the other in ways we might not have considered.
A tall order, right? The stuff of volumes, in fact. And yet The Mindful Writer is small enough to fit in your pocket, your bag, your glove compartment, your sock drawer—you never have to be without it: as reference, as balm, as talisman; to refresh, encourage, comfort, and instruct. It’s a trove of treasures from the likes of Thomas Mann, Raymond Carver, Chuck Close, Martha Graham, Hayden Carruth, C. S. Lewis, Charles Baxter, Junot Diaz, Flannery O’Connor, Anton Chekhov, Joan Baez, Ben Yagoda, William Faulkner, and Ursula La Guin, to name only a few.
But why don’t I whet your appetite, hmmm?
Here’s Stephen Dunn: “Your poem effectively begins at the first moment you’ve surprised or startled yourself.” (The Writer’s Mind)
And Allen Ginzburg: “Catch yourself thinking.” (The Writer’s Desk)
A quote from E. M. Forster: “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” (The Writer’s Vision)
And from Ezra Bayda: “Your difficulties are not obstacles on the path, they are the path.”
And see, if all we got were the quotes—Dinty having done our homework for us—dayenu, as they say in my tradition: it would have been enough. However: We get Professor Moore as well; accessible, insightful, funny, and true, cheering us on like the teacher and friend he is.
So about Dunn, he writes: “…And don’t despair the false starts: just scratch them out and move forward.”
And he riffs off Ginsburg to say, “That thought is a line of a poem, the beginning of a story, an essay.”
Forster prompts him to remind us: “Only through writing—moving sentences, adding imagery, adjusting syntax—do we arrive at what we really think…and thus, what we really want to say.”
And Bayda’s wisdom provokes him to confide: “Here’s what I tell myself on the days that I am blocked, on the days that I can write nothing, on the days that each new sentence I put down seems even more mundane than the last. I tell myself, “Don’t worry, man, it is just a bad stretch you need to get through, and then you’ll be okay for a while.””
All this, all these gems as delivered and considered by Dinty, some or all of it bound to resonate with some and all of us—writers, artists, citizens of the world—on any given day. And what’s more, to make us feel grateful (I’m quoting the author) for the “challenge” and the “gift.”
As they say in your tradition, Dinty: Namaste.
And thanks goes to you.