I was on Brainpickings watching and reading commencement speeches from five well known Americans. There was David Foster Wallace speaking to graduates from Kenyon College, Ellen Degeneres At Tulane, Aaron Sorkin at Syracuse (a school I recently applied to for graduate study), President Obama at Wesleyan, and Conan O’Brien at Dartmouth. They are all worth watching. As an extra bonus Maria Papova added a talk by Ray Bradbury. It is about an hour long, and sometimes I think he rambles a bit, but it is charming rambling. He had a lot of advice to offer a young writer (young meaning young in the process of writing) one of which I already went against.
“Don’t start with a novel.” He said.
Well I blew that one. He was right it was hard, but what’s done is done, and it’s still writing. He recommends short stories. To practice. Eventually you’ll get a good one. I’ve never felt very confident in my short story skills. When I try to write a short story and then offer it up for feedback I’m often told, “this reads like a novel.” A very short novel I suppose. I’ll still try to follow his advice, but the thing that I think I can feel confident following the most is his advice to read. I can read. I don’t think Bradbury was making a challenge so much as making a life statement when he said to read every night. Read a short story, a poem, and an essay every night for a thousand days.
I did some loose mathematics while I was in the shower this morning and I figured that one thousand days equals out to about four years three months and ten days. I didn’t include the 1/2 of 365 days while I was thinking about this and I’m sure I’m off in other ways meaning it isn’t exact, but I bet I’m in range. Four years, three months, and ten days is not a challenge it is a change of lifestyle, but I think I should do it. I’m a sporadic reader. I’ll read for many days in a row and then not read for many days in a row. So to read one short story, one poem, and one essay every night for the next four years will be a challenge. I’m not giving up my reading of novels so these will have to be added. Really four years is basically an undergraduate degree.
In four years I’ll have read 1000 short stories, 1000 poems, and 1000 essays (all types of essays and articles) and then I’ll have graduated from the University of Ray Bradbury’s advice. I wont owe any money either. I wonder if it will make me write. Oh, that’s another lifestyle choice.
So, wow, today is day one and my short story is Curating Your Life by Nina McConigley from American Short Fiction. My poem is Emily Dickinson’s Escape. from a thin book of selected poems by Dickinson. Lastly, my essay or article I should say is from the magazine Parabola, The Mist Wolf by Stephan A.Schwartz.
In other reading news, I am slowly reading through The Mind & The Brain Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force. I just read this in small bits like taking little bites. I recently finished reading John Fante‘s Ask the Dusk and Wait Until Spring, Bandini. I’m waiting to meet with my one person book club, before I move on to the next book, Zorba the Greek.
I’ll be impressed with myself if I make it 30 days.