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Write and Live in 2012

By on Tuesday, Jan 3, 2012 in Bruce Feiler on NPR, Writing Life | 2 comments

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As we welcome the new year and set our writing goals, I’d like to share something I heard yesterday on NPR that stayed with me on a very gutteral level.

As writers, we (well, okay, I) tend to define success based on outcome–did we publish?  This amazing story I heard on NPR yesterday helped me to understand that while we can’t always control the outcome in life or in writing, we can control the process. 

So…if you face any adversity in the writing world–namely, rejections, stinging contest feedback, upsetting reviews–you’ve got to listen to this!

Author Bruce Feiler spoke to Michel Martin on her NPR show Tell Me More.  His topic was overcoming adversity and getting the right start for 2012.

You may know him as the author of The Council of Dads, a bestselling book about his cancer journey and how he asked each of his close friends to share their unique talents with his daughters.

When asked about his new year’s resolutions, Feiler offered this story:

Three years ago, he had leg surgery for cancer.  Six months after the surgery, he went to see his surgeon, Dr. John Healey of Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York, and asked him this question (From here on are Feiler’s own words.):

“‘If my daughters ever come to see you and say, what lesson should they learn from our daddy’s story, what would you tell them?’
And this man’s a pauser.  Ooh, he pauses longer than anyone I ever heard.  And he said, 

‘I would tell your daughters what I know.  And that is–everybody dies.  But not everbody lives.  I want you to live.’

And at its simplest, corest level, I would say, every year, I don’t live every day like it’s my last but I live every year as if it might be my last.  And my goal every year is to live.

And to me that means–go on an adventure.  Ask a question.  Begin some process that I can look back and say, whatever has happened, good, bad or indifferent, I will have lived my life on my toes and not on my heels.”   

To me this means acting, striving to be the very best we can be, controling what we can control, hoping for the best but not taking the worst personally.  Always working to be better.  Or, like my mom always told me, do your best. 

I wish all of you the best in 2012.  And to find joy in the striving!

Here is the NPR link if you’d like to listen.   (The whole discussion lasts 12.5 minutes, and the part above is at the end.)