Have been Reading Mr. Blue

… my all-time favorite advice columnist (Garrison Keillor). This guy gives great advice:

To be a writer simply means to become an independent thinker, one without portfolio, and the world needs more such people, whether you eventually write crime novels, or poems about trees, or treatises on law, or blazing social commentary, or a cookbook. Independent thinking is a fine and worthy project for one’s middle years. Start out with exercises. Stake out the most radical position you feel you could possibly defend, that you would like to support, and argue for it. Write the most scathing jeremiad you can manage about something you know about. Write about your child. Write a homage to your favorite show, or your favorite shoes. Do these exercises for their own sake, to get you moving, to amuse you, to make you work, and meanwhile, look for what else you might put your hand to. And good luck.

A boy who loves to write should not necessarily be thrust into a school geared to turning out high achievers and happy test-takers who will push to the front of the professional treadmill. (I don’t know exactly what I mean by that last sentence, but it sounds good, doesn’t it?)

Conspire to give yourself periods of solitude. Rise early, if possible, to have an hour alone in which to think, read, walk, pray. Somewhere near you is a piece of land that’s comparatively wild: Attend it when you can. And put yourself in the presence of great art, whatever moves and delights you. This is what makes a symphony orchestra such a great community asset, or a fine art center, or a dance company, or theater — because they produce transcendent moments for hardworking people. You walk out of the hall after a great performance and you’re walking on air.

Don’t waste time in languishing — if you’re going to make mistakes, make active mistakes, not the small soggy ones.

Don’t settle for work that is less than what you can do. You pulled yourself up out of the swamp once, and you can do it again. You know what it takes. It isn’t selfish to want to find your life’s work. Figure out the finances, do what you need to do to make ends meet, sell the car and go back to school.

I just wish he was still at Salon. I’d write him.

I really, really, really, really don’t know what I want to do next. I was going to say “what to do with my life” but I guess that’s a pretty silly way to look at things. To imagine you can make one decision and then chart the rest of your life on that course. That’s just silly talk.

At the same time, though, I have no idea what I’m going to do next. On the one hand I enjoy working and having a daily routine. On the other, it’s pretty soul-destroying. I can’t stay here much longer. Things are really coming to a head, I think. I’d really like to do something totally frivilous for a while – work in a book store part time, or a bakery or something weird like that. Work some weird wee hours and have the days to myself. I don’t know what I want. Something meaningful, where I feel as if I really am making a contribution to the world. I was contemplating Ecology or Environmental studies earlier, after seeing that come up in a test I did on some careers planning site. And really, yes, ecology would be interesting. People who work in Ecology are dedicated, caring, interested, outdoorsy…

I guess I’m afraid to walk down a particular path, knowing that I will be essentially shutting the door on everything else. Mind you, sitting on the fence (stagnating in the mosquito pond, etc. etc.) is getting me absolutely nowhere.

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