Have you seen this?
The letter is from Kurt Vonnegut to a class of high school students in 2006. The student’s assignment was to write to different authors, comment on the author’s writing, and then ask for advice about the writing life. Several authors were queried.
Only one — Vonnegut — responded to the students (the story behind the letter is here). What a great assignment. What a teachable moment that was for the authors — and the students. Kudos, Vonnegut.
But I digress.
Vonnegut’s advice to the budding writers was wonderful. In the second paragraph, he said:
“Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.”
Indeed. How often do we allow ourselves to do this, friends? Personally, I don’t want to ‘become.’ I just want to fricking get there already. I want this damn book to be further along than it already is, and I don’t want to wait!
Vonnegut’s point was that we, all of us, grow into that which were intended to be, but our talents (whatever they are) are not manifested until they are fully developed. We have to BECOME. None of this ‘becoming’ is instantaneous. Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours of practice theory comes to mind.
The only way to get better at anything is to do that thing, whatever that thing is. You put your fingers on the keyboard, and just start typing. You make mistakes along the way. You create a lot of bad rough drafts (be your craft writing or not writing).
I say this to you because, last night, as I was working on the ninth or 10th version of the first chapter of the book, I realized how much different it was from version one (I looked. I cringed as I read the first one). This 10th version is a lot better than the first one, and the journey from first version to 10th has taken about six months.
I am tired of diddling around with rough drafts, folks, truly. But the diddling around has been to my benefit. This is what ‘becoming’ is about.
If that sounds like I’ve been spinning the wheels, well, I feel like I have in a lot of ways. But the content and depth of details in this latest iteration has matured. Sort of like what happens to wine, but I wouldn’t know anymore. Not that I am fixating on wine, for what it is worth. LOL.
There’s no guidebook to “experiencing becoming;” no timeline or wiki to instruct me. Or you. We just have to do it, whatever that ‘it’ is for you and me.
Communication, Arts, and the Humanities
The University of Maryland Global Campus