“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. Every time I have set out to translate the book (or story, or hopelessly long essay) that exists in such brilliant detail on the big screen of my limbic system onto a piece of paper (which, let’s face it, was once a towering tree crowned with leaves and a home to birds), I grieve for my own lack of intelligence. Every. Single. Time.
“Were I smarter, more gifted, I could pin down a closer facsimile of the wonders I see. I believe that, more than anything else, this grief of constantly having to face down our own inadequacies is what keeps people from being writers. Forgiveness, therefore, is the 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.”
- Ann Patchett (from The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life)
A Writer’s Prayer
Let me forgive myself for the stories that are not perfect,
for the scenes rushed through, and the plot points fumbled,
and the language less than it ought to be,
and the phrases that make me wince even though
nobody notices but me.
Let me forgive myself for the stories I didn’t write,
didn’t finish, or didn’t let anyone see -
because I was too busy, too lazy, too tired, too frightened,
because I was living my life, or saving my life,
because I was falling in love, or falling out of love,
because I had run out of words, or room, or time,
let me forgive myself for all those stories
that live inside me
and not on the page.
Let me forgive myself for my failures, but also
for all those times when I tallied my shortcomings
instead of celebrating each small success.
Let me celebrate now:
not the life that I dreamed of, but the life that I have,
not the stories that I dreamed of, but the stories that I’ve made,
not the writer I imagined I’d one day be, but the writer that I am.
And then let me keep working.
The painting above is by Gerard ter Borch (1617-1681)