Monday, June 22, 2015

Reads for Writers: Time and the Art of Living by Robert Grudin Provides a Masterclass

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

As a reader, I always love finding books that appeal to me. As a writer, I am twice as pleased when the authors also provide masterclasses within their books.

          Masterclasses take place when performance artists and musicians work one-on-one with students. Writers don’t generally have this option, but I have found some books to be masterclasses for characters, backstories, plots, settings, voice, and/or creativity.

          Breaking facets of time into thirteen categories in his book Time and the Art of Living, Robert Grudin shares thoughts that make you reconsider how to spend your hours. Some of these thoughts are only a sentence or two, some almost fill a page, but they all make you ponder your perspective on the past, present, and future.

          This is one of my favorite books. I have underlined and marked many passages over the twenty years I have been rereading it—and this is a book meant for rereading.

While Grudin’s thoughts reveal time to me in new ways, I don’t remember these insights when overwhelmed by daily chores and deadlines. Habits are hard to break. Rereading is the best way for me to retain these life lessons that are essential as life equals time and how you choose to use it.

Chapter IX “Achievement” and Chapter X “Time and Art” are especially meant for writers and artists. Here are a few of my favorite excerpts:

·        IX.8 The list of time management hints, especially: Ensure that every important activity receives a large and uninterrupted period of time. (page123-124)

·        IX.30 Anyone who applies himself regularly, lengthily, and energetically to a single project is certain, no matter what else happens, to encounter days of profound delight or unprecedented inspiration. (page 133)

·        X.22 If you are planning to write fiction, do not sit around too long trying to think up a good story. If you work hard, the story will come to life as you are writing it. Remember also that all decent fiction has the same inner story: the story of discovery. (page 143)

·        X.25 [Journal of This Book]…shares Grudin’s thoughts and writing schedule as he worked on this book including:...Now, after about 500 entries and six months, I am still in the confused beginnings and have successfully cultivated an oblivious attitude toward writing in which one day’s work is immediately forgotten, and each day the whole book starts anew.

However, there are many other thoughts in other chapters that apply, too, including:

·        II.10…Learn the art of planning and, more generally, the art of extending will through time. (page 21)

·        II.23…For although minutes spent in boredom or anxiety pass slowly, they nonetheless add up to years which are void of memory. (page 27)

·        VI.30…We have gotten so used to looking at time’s rear end that we no longer realize that it has another side as well. We rightly see life as a series of challenges but do not see that, in a more profound sense, it is also a series of preparations. (page 89)

The lesson I most need to learn is:

VII.20: Every time we postpone some necessary event…we do so with the implication that present time is more important than future time…Disrespect for the future is a subtly poisonous disrespect for self, and forces us, paradoxically enough, to live in the past. (page 101)

What do you think of Robert Grudin’s thoughts on time, art, and living?

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