Creativity itself doesn’t care at all about results – the only thing it craves is the process. Learn to love the process and let whatever happens next happen, without fussing too much about it. Work like a monk, or a mule, or some other representative metaphor for diligence. Love the work. Destiny will do what it wants with you, regardless.
I love my friends and family, but I also love it when they can’t find me and I can spend all day reading or walking all alone, in silence, eight thousand miles away from everyone. All alone and unreachable in a foreign country is one my most favorite possible things to be.
am far more of a loner than people would imagine. But I am the most gregarious and socially interactive loner you ever met. The thing is, I am fascinated by people’s stories and I’m very talkative and can’t ever say no to anything or anyone, so I tend to over-socialize, to give away too much of my time to the many people I adore.
Nobody until very recently would have thought that their husband was supposed to be their best friend, confidante, intellectual soul mate, co-parent, inspiration.
I think it’s unfortunate that there exists only one path in America to complete social legitimacy, and that is marriage. I think, for instance, that it would be far easier for Americans to elect a black president or a female president than an unmarried president.
When I diagnose my depression now, I think it was partially about saying goodbye to these kids that I always expected to have but already knew that I wouldn’t.
There were times, especially when I was traveling for ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ when, I swear to God, I would feel this weight of my female ancestors, all those Swedish farmwives from beyond the grave who were like, ‘Go! Go to Naples! Eat more pizza! Go to India, ride an elephant! Do it! Swim in the Indian Ocean. Read those books. Learn a language.’
I think it’s wonderful when a love story begins with a great deal of romance and affection, passion and excitement, that’s how it should be. But I don’t necessarily know that it’s the wisest thing in the world to expect that it ends there, or that it should, 30 years down the road, still look as it did on the night of your first kiss.
Oh, I just want what we all want: a comfortable couch, a nice beverage, a weekend of no distractions and a book that will stop time, lift me out of my quotidian existence and alter my thinking forever.
My writing practice taught me the important thing is steadfastness. It’s not necessarily discipline. Discipline can become a prison. When your spiritual practices become another thing for you to be anxious about, they’ve lost their usefulness.
I have these new policies toward my life, like ‘I will not accelerate when I see the yellow light.’
I was a bartender for a long time, so I know how to make drinks, but I’m more likely to offer them than to have them. I think this is one of the reasons why I get to live longer than my great-grandmother did, and why I get to produce more writing than she did, and why my marriage isn’t in dire straits.
Sureness is something like a neck brace, which we clamp around our lives, hoping to somehow protect ourselves from the frightening, constant whiplash of change. Sadly, the brace doesn’t always hold.
If life gives you lemons, don’t settle for simply making lemonade – make a glorious scene at a lemonade stand.
It’s not an accident that both my sister and I are writers. Our parents created an accidental Petri dish. My family has great storytellers, and I grew up in a very funny, conversational house and didn’t have television. This small family farm was a bubble world that didn’t have much to do with reality.
If I am to truly become an autonomous woman, then I must take over that role of being my own guardian.
Part of the elasticity that you need, in order to continue to try to create, is the foregone conclusion that not all of it is going to be fabulously successful. But it’s all going to be part of a long lifetime body of experimentation.
If you are given only one opportunity to speak, be certain your voice is heard.
I myself have never been enchanted by the dream of the white wedding, and, heaven help us, the expectation that this exquisitely catered event should be ‘the happiest moment’ of one’s life.
That is who Barack Obama is – a person of admirable character – and that is who he has remained for me over these last four years. I have not agreed with his every decision, but never once have I seen him break his cool, lose his composure, or abandon his insightful perspective – even during the most serious and/or absurd national disasters.
There’s no reason to keep a piece of furniture in your house that is so sacred and rare that you can’t put your feet up on it and a dog can’t jump up on it. Likewise, a book that sits on a shelf like a piece of porcelain, only to be admired, never to be read again, is a dead book.
Nothing in the last few years has dazzled me more than Hilary Mantel’s ‘Wolf Hall,’ which blew the top of my head straight off. I’ve read it three times, and I’m still trying to figure out how she put that magnificent thing together.
Every few years, I think, ‘Maybe now I’m finally smart enough or sophisticated enough to understand ‘Ulysses.’ So I pick it up and try it again. And by page 10, as always, I’m like, ‘What the hell?’
I push every day against forces that say you have to go faster, be more effective, be more productive, you have to constantly outdo yourself, you have to constantly outdo your neighbor – all of the stuff that creates an incredibly productive society, but also a very neurotic one.
I’ve always been afraid of saying no to people because I don’t want them to be disappointed and dislike me.
I feel like there are women who are genuinely born to be mothers, and women who are born to be aunties, and women who really probably not should be allowed near children. The tragedy that happens is when any one of those women ends up in the wrong category.
I don’t think you can come into your wisdom until you have made mistakes on your own skin and felt them in reality of your own life.
When I look at my life and the lives of my female friends these days – with our dizzying number of opportunities and talents – I sometimes feel as though we are all mice in a giant experimental maze, scurrying around frantically, trying to find our way through.
I think that people who live in cultures without quite so much privilege, opportunity or grandiosity have a little bit more respect for the workings of destiny, and the limitations that people can find themselves in through no fault of their own.
Here’s the thing: the unit of reverence in Europe is the family, which is why a child born today of unmarried parents in Sweden has a better chance of growing up in a house with both of his parents than a child born to a married couple in America. Here we revere the couple, there they revere the family
I think sometimes we look at other people’s marriages and we think they must always be so happy together. I don’t know anybody who’s married for a long time who hasn’t somehow made room in their love story for the hate and resentment that they sometimes feel toward each other.
But, ancient Greece and ancient Rome – people did not happen to believe that creativity came from human beings back then, OK? People believed that creativity was this divine attendant spirit that came to human beings from some distant and unknowable source, for distant and unknowable reasons.
You know, I think that allowing somebody, one mere person to believe that he or she is like, the vessel you know, like the font and the essence and the source of all divine, creative, unknowable, eternal mystery is just a smidge too much responsibility to put on one fragile, human psyche. It’s like asking somebody to swallow the sun.
My whole life I’ve been an over-giver. My general operating policy has always been, ‘If it belongs to me, don’t worry: You can have it!’
Which is – you know, like check it out, I’m pretty young, I’m only about 40 years old. I still have maybe another four decades of work left in me. And it’s exceedingly likely that anything I write from this point forward is going to be judged by the world as the work that came after the freakish success of my last book, right?