Yesterday morning, I listened to The Paris Review podcast and heard LeVar Burton recreate a 1984 speech by the late writer James Baldwin. I was walking through my neighborhood and had to stop a few times to enter quotes into the Evernote app on my iPhone:
“An artist is someone who helps you see reality.”
“A writer has to take all of the risks of putting down what he or she sees.”
“You want to write a sentence that is as clean as a bone.”
Baldwin discussed his involvement in the 1960s civil rights protests, just before delivering his ultimate advice to writers: “Find a way to stay alive and write.”
It’s easy to get inside my head and overthink the reasons to write or not write, whether my material is good or terrible, and what others will think about my work or whether anyone will ever see it. Baldwin’s simple advice is “clean as a bone,” indeed, and will cling to my own bones for a long time.