Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Parnassus Books

Writing and Self-Forgiveness

From a rather long life of making mistakes, gaffes, miscalculations, and oversights, I know the critical value of forgiving myself.

Ann Patchett

Image of Ann Patchett courtesy of Wikimedia Commons & Rodrigo Fernández

Yet, this must be done with deep sincerity or one ends up just accumulating excuses for continuing to run rough-shod over Life

Continually saying, “I’m sorry” (offered to others or ourselves) when it’s not deeply felt can accumulate tremendous internal guilt and grief.

In just a minute, I’ll give you Ann Patchett‘s comments about the self-forgiveness of writers; but, I must build up to it

Ms Patchett is a novelist and independent bookstore owner.

Her latest work, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriageis a memoir that gives keys into the world of Ann’s writer’s mind.

I found out about the book from Maria Popova’s article, The Workhorse and the Butterfly: Ann Patchett on Writing and Why Self-Forgiveness Is the Most Important Ingredient of Great Art.

I’ll share a few excerpts from Maria’s article (quotes from Ann) that I feel lead up to a writer forgiving themselves:

“…what I love about both novels and dogs is that they are so beautifully oblivious to economic concerns. We serve them, and in return they thrive.”

Some very interesting comments about the roles of fiction and nonfiction follow, until:

“We should be able to tap into the constant narrative flow our minds provide, the roaring river of words filling up our heads, and direct it out into a neat stream of organized thought so that other people can read it….But it’s right about there, right about when we sit down to write that story, that things fall apart.”

“This book I have not yet written one word of is a thing of indescribable beauty, unpredictable in its patterns, piercing in its color, so wild and loyal in its nature that my love for this book, and my faith in it as I track its lazy flight, is the single perfect joy in my life.”

“When I can’t think of another stall, when putting it off has actually become more painful than doing it, I reach up and pluck the butterfly from the air. I take it from the region of my head and I press it down against my desk, and there, with my own hand, I kill it.”

“Only a few of us are going to be willing to break our own hearts by trading in the living beauty of imagination for the stark disappointment of words.”

“I never learned how to take the beautiful thing in my imagination and put it on paper without feeling I killed it along the way. I did, however, learn how to weather the death, and I learned how to forgive myself for it.”


All those quotes from Ann are my way of teasing you into reading Maria’s article, which might lead you to reading Ann’s book

And, before I share the ultimate quote about self-forgiveness for writers, I want you to consider that, even if you’re not a writer, your life is your own Work of Art—we are constantly writing the book of our own life


The following quote is for Everyone:

“Forgiveness. The ability to forgive oneself. Stop here for a few breaths and think about this because it is the key to making art, and very possibly the key to finding any semblance of happiness in life.


“I believe, more than anything, that this grief of constantly having to face down our own inadequacies is what keeps people from being writers. Forgiveness, therefore, is key. I can’t write the book I want to write, but I can and will write the book I am capable of writing. Again and again throughout the course of my life I will forgive myself.”

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The Future of Reading . . .

There’s so much in the press about Reading; but, most of it pretends it’s about Publishing… 

Future of Reading

Image courtesy of guillermo ossa ~

Will digital kill print?

Will self-publishing kill the traditional houses?

And, all the authors feel compelled to share their opinions—opinions only since hard facts in the realm of books are so difficult to find

Of course, the prevailing opinion is that readers are consumers and authors must feed that consumption.

What’s happened to authors as Unique Creators and Readers as the Most Privileged People on the planet?

Things are so frenzied that even my attempt to introduce what I want to share in this post has almost slipped away from me

I’ve covered the Reading-Writing-Publishing Beat for nearly eight years and the Subject Index Links in the left side-bar clearly show what I’ve felt most compelled to explore.

Amongst the over 2,300 posts, certain major topics loom large, like Writer’s Resources and Self-Publishing and Reading and Author Interviews.

And, the most numerous group of posts are tagged Notes from An Alien

Not merely because that’s the name of the novel I wrote that will always be free.

It’s also because of what that novel says about our world; and, more importantly, that the words “Notes from An Alien” most perfectly describe me and what I’ve tried to do in this blog—find some sense in what’s happening in the Book World as our civilization goes through the biggest transformation humanity has ever faced

So, peripatetic introduction having been spun out, consider the Future of Reading through the lens of an article in Publishing Perspectives from the London Book Fair—LBF’s Digital Minds: The Golden Age or End of the Book?

A few snippets:

“…in a roundtable discussion that ended the day, a question was posed by Random House’s Dan Franklin that seemed to summarize the philosophical bent of the day. ‘Is this a golden age for publishing or the end of the era of the book?’”

“’It’s the beginning of a change in readership’, replied Dominique Raccah.”

“’It’s the golden age for the access to stories’, said author Nick Harkaway.”

“’It’s the beginning of a new age for the author’, says Kobo’s Michael Tamblyn.”

My comments:

Certainly, books need authors to write them and some method of publishing them; but, Readers (not “readership”) are the reason for books.

Certainly, access to reading is opening up.

Certainly, one can hope authors are beginning to enter the New Age that’s dawning

Now, trying to keep the focus on Readers, let’s briefly explore an article about the UK head of Penguin Random House in The Guardian—Tom Weldon: ‘Some say publishing is in trouble. They are completely wrong’.

One snippet:

“While Amazon tempts browsers with recommendations based on their search history, Weldon thinks traditional publishers need something more personal. They have to get to know their readers: ‘Where do they hang out, what do they like, how do we talk to them?’ The company is still in the early stages of this process, but is seeking this ‘direct relationship with readers to tell them about the books they might fall in love with’.”

My comment:

Traditional publishing has been around for quite some time now Why are they still “in the early stages” of being concerned about a direct relationship with their readers?

Another article from The Guardian—Publishing: we can’t see the right track for all the digital platforms—has this:

“Last year, the Pew Research Centre, an independent think tank, reported that people under 30 were now reading more books than they were 10 years ago, and in more formats than ever before. We know this anecdotally, from experience. Step on to any bus, plane or train. A majority will be engrossed in the written word, in some form.”


There appears to be some hope for the Dear Reader; yet, I wonder if all the Access is providing a truly Valuable reading experience

And, what’s up with all this talk of bookstores disappearing?

Perhaps, it’s only certain kinds of bookstores?

I’ll leave you, my Dear Readers, with a bit of Refreshment:

Visit Parnassus Books, where the owner says some fascinating things, like:

“You may have heard the news that the independent bookstore is dead, that books are dead, that maybe even reading is dead—to which I say: Pull up a chair, friend. I have a story to tell.”

Read Parnassus’ online Literary Journal—and, have some fun. :-)
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