Archive for January, 2010

A Very Brief Treatise on Happiness

January 28, 2010 2 comments


A safety pin holds a slip of paper to the tack board above my desk. On it is a quote by the 14th Dalia Lama.  Here’s what it says:

A very brief treatise on happiness

 “We are visitors on this planet.  We are here for ninety or one hundred years at the very most.  During that period, we must try to do something good, something useful with our lives. If you contribute to other people’s happiness, you will find the true goal, the true meaning of life.”

 Consider this post a gift. You’re welcome.

Categories: On Living

A Memoir Writing Tip (or Two)

January 20, 2010 5 comments

There’s an art to putting a painful past on paper. Part of the art is detaching from the hurt to write clearly. Who said, “You need to write cold in order to get hot?” I can’t recall but it is useful advice.  So that’s the first tip of memoir writing:

1. Write cold to get hot.

The second and equally important part of writing a past worth reading is this: be an enormously talented writer. I can’t stress tip number two enough for helping would-be memoir writers make good on a publishing goal:

2. Be talented.

As intimidating as tip number two might seem, stay with me here. By talent I don’t mean you have an innate gift of putting out perfect prose that seeps on the page effortlessly and without need of revision. By talent I mean you have a dogged determination—a compelling drive—to hold a mirror to your life that reflects your truth.

Let me illustrate these tips by giving you something to read. Well, two things, actually. First, read Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah.  Her memoir, published in 1997, took the better part of forty years to write. Not that she toiled at her manuscript for forty years.  Mah just needed to put some serious distance between the events of her young life and her adult self so she could tell the story clearly. This need for space between events—part of the write cold, get hot process–is detailed in the other thing to read, an essay by George Orwell called “Such, Such Were the Joys…” Read more…