Tony Leighton is a Canadian writer happily retired and attempting to help others feel the same.

Kurt Knew

Vonnegut not Cobain, although he obviously knew something too.

Kurt Vonnegut wrote this in his semi-autobiographical book, Timequake (1997):

The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.

People who are creative take this for granted. And most everyone has felt it, that feeling of piercing the predictable with something you’ve made. It can be as complex as an automobile (I know someone who built a car in his garage after work) or as simple as a new spin on an old story you’ve told many times before. 

What else? So many things. Artful ways of seeing the world (images made on the image-making devices we all carry), being with people (conversations conducted with intent), assembling things meaningfully (collecting and curating), dressing yourself (with even a single dash of flair, like a jaunty scarf), or hand-writing a note to someone (marveling at how your handwriting has fallen apart, how you remember it fondly in better days, and how you intend to practice because everything you write by hand is distinctly yours and thus a kind of art form — an art form well suited to those of us with the opportunity to slow things down and savor life a little more).

The art of writing — composing with sentences — is open to most people. The tools are simple, the rewards potentially immense. Fear of writing, the voice of the resistance, can be overcome with a step forward, then another, because most of us are halfway there already.

Write something. By hand or keyboard. Quality, as Vonnegut said, doesn’t matter. You’d be surprised that once you get down to it — once you overcome the resistance — words tend to assemble themselves, then ask to be reassembled more elegantly until something clear and hard gets made. Don’t call it "writing." Call it “manipulating symbols.” Drain it of its power to stop you. Make it more like a jigsaw puzzle. (That stops me. The writing doesn’t.)

"Practicing an art is a way to make your soul grow.” That’s worth repeating.

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Thanks.

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