Writing instructions by poet Jane Kenyon, as quoted by writer Dani Shapiro in her book Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, as read by me today at the bistro table in the back garden:
Be a good steward to your gifts.
Protect your time.
Feed your inner life.
Avoid too much noise.
Read good books, have good sentences in your ears.
Be by yourself as often as you can.
Take the phone off the hook. [These days: Disable the internet.]
Work regular hours.
I read these instructions and I recognized them. I recognized them because they are the principles by which I live my life now, or at least (on the less great days) am striving to live it. And I recognized them because I've read them before, somewhere, sometime in the last decade or two of my circuitous journey to get to where I want to be. And I knew reading these words today that the last time I read them--whenever exactly it was--they did not resonate with me in this affirming, satisfying, yes kind of way, because I was not at that time following most of them with any regularity or even any understanding that they were important. I was desperate to be a writer and I was lacking a practice--I did not work regular hours, I did not protect my time, I yearned and tried and talked about being a writer, and I gave up when it was hard and when I was afraid of the blank page and the blank screen and the great empty swaths of time all by myself in the quiet.
And I'm pretty sure, sitting here now at the bistro table, that I owe everything to the fact that I eventually stumbled and struggled and landed into the way of being and living and writing outlined in these simple instructions.
It's a pretty powerful list.