“I have a few ideas that I think are very useful to me. One is that you do whatever comes your way as well as you can, and another is that you think as little as possible about yourself and as much as possible about other people and about things that are interesting.
“The third is that you get more joy out of giving joy to others and should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.”
Simplicity—that’s what strikes me about Eleanor’s words. Surely she knew a thing or two abut living a full, productive life—and for her it came down to three simple, useful ideas:
Do your work well: Do the work that you’re called to do as well as you can. To me, that means giving a full effort with a caring sharing attitude. For us as writers that means pouring ourselves without reserve, without holding back, into whatever happens to be on the field of play for us. It may be throwing down a first draft of something we’ve been noodling around in our heads and want to commit to paper. Or doing a revision of a chapter or even just a page. Let’s give it our best—even more than our best: Let’s do more than expected.
Don’t think about yourself: This is tricky, because as writers, I think we are constantly taking our own emotional temperatures. How are we feeling—hopeful or discouraged? Are we still upset about that agent pass? Are we feeling tired or energetic? What if we put all of this aside when we come to the page? What if we don’t really bother about ourselves and simply focus all our intention and powers of observation on our work? Pretty soon, we’ll just forget about ourselves. We’ll just become a window through which our ideas and writing can shine.
Give joy and happiness to others: Here’s where we can really use our gifts to make a difference. It’s a tough world out there: Every day, every hour, things are happening that make us cringe and cry and wonder about how cruel and inhumane people can be to each other. It’s easy to become hopeless and despairing. In the midst of all this, can we, as storytellers and scribes, create islands of hope or happiness for our readers? Can we give them something of worth to hang onto? Can we find light even in the dark places? Can we remind them of the kindness of strangers, of the invisible thread that connects us all? Can we remind them that we are all the same?
Bravo, Eleanor! What a simple recipe for life—and for our life’s work. And now, let’s simplify as we all write on!
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