In the Northwest we are experts at carpe diem, but our version is carpe solem – grab that sun – sit right down and bask.
I thought of that the other day when I stopped at my clever friend’s house in town, taking a break from the chore list. We had a few moments under the umbrella on her porch, with Port Townsend Bay in the far distance, nodding heads of garden bloom close by.
We snacked from a bowl of sweet-tart cherries – tossing pits into the garden – and talked family life, and books. Living up to her name, my clever friend told me about Byliners – have you heard? I hadn’t.
Byliners.com is a site devoted to long-form journalism, “a discovery engine for great reads by great authors” – an amazing and elegant free archive of articles, “timeless and timely.” Register and they’ll recommend “something good to read.”
Their “Byliners Originals” are new nonfiction, designed to be “read in a single sitting,” on any of the e-reader platforms (including a Kindle app on a computer). My friend had read several (they cost $2.99 each), and her descriptions made me so curious.
I loved “Bel Canto,” so at home I downloaded Ann Patchett’s “The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life.” Writing is Patchett’s vehicle, her way to escape and get where she wants to be in life.
Early in the memoir Patchett recommends that if you want to be a better writer, buy a copy of “The Collected Stories by Grace Paley.” Patchett says she learned much from Paley, including that “writing must not be compartmentalized. You don’t step out of the stream of your life to do your work. Work was the life, and who you were as a mother, teacher, friend, citizen, activist, and artist was all the same person.”
Patchett tells the story of a composer with a sign-in sheet keeping track of his hours worked. His discovery, and Patchett’s, and ours: “Time applied equaled work completed.” Simple rule – an hour a day – just do it.
As I read through Patchett’s memoir, I made electronic notes (odd, but they do work) so I could remember her words: “The part of my brain that makes art and the part that judges that art had to be separated. While I was writing, I was not allowed to judge. That was the law.”
E-books have their charms, but I wish this particular book were paper. I’ve filched a butterfly from the book’s electronic cover for an illustration, but to learn the butterfly story you have to read the book. In it, Patchett is spot on!