Words To Remember

I’ve got these three passages taped on my office wall.

The first is from Steve Pressfield in his book, “The War of Art.” See, at times, I struggle to make something decipherable out of the words bouncing in my head, and I often joke with folks that I see myself as a shift worker of nouns and verbs.

But when I read this, Steve’s words keeps me going.

The second is from Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, writer and teacher. I plucked it from an “On Being” podcast in which Krista Tippett interviewed Rachel and asked her about the importance of telling stories.

The third is from John Steinbeck. And I found this quote on a T-shirt.


Sure, his quote is decades old. But it always as reminded me that no matter what separates us — age, race, whatever — we all have one thing in common.

It’s our need to communicate through story and tell ourselves, as Steinbeck says below, “Yes, that’s the way it is, or at least that’s the way I feel it. You’re not as alone as you thought.”

I’ve handed out and read these passages to students in college journalism classes in central North Carolina. When I do, I tell them I hope it’ll help them cope with the hateful blank screens we all see. Then, I tell them, I hope these passage will help them understand the importance of what they do when they put fingers to keyboard.

May these passages help you.

They do me.



A Creed To Remember

Were you put on this earth to be a painter, a scientist, a writer, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answered by action.

Do it or don’t do it.

It may help to think of it this way. If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet.

You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God.

Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us for your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.


The Importance of Story

“There’s a powerful saying that sometimes we need a story more than food in order to live. They tell us about who we are, what is possible for us, what we might call upon. They also remind us we’re not alone with whatever faces us.

“Whenever there’s a crisis, like 9/11, do you notice how the whole of the United States turned towards the stories? Where I was, what happened, what happened in those buildings, what happened to the people who were connected to the people in those buildings? Because that is the only way we can make sense out of life, through the stories. The facts are a certain number of people died there. The stories are about the greatness of being a human being and the vulnerability of being a human being.

“So, stories touch something that is human in us and is probably unchanging. Perhaps this is why the important knowledge is passed through stories. It’s what holds a culture together. Culture has a story, and every person in it participates in that story.

“The world is made up of stories; it’s not made up of facts.”


Steinbeck: Why We Write

“A writer out of loneliness is trying to communicate like a distant star sending signals. He isn’t telling or teaching or ordering. Rather, he seeks to establish a relationship of meaning, of feeling, of observing.

“See, we are lonesome animals. We spend all our lives trying to less lonesome, and one of our ancient methods is to tell a story begging the listener to feel — and to say to themselves, “Yes, that’s the way it is, or at least that’s the way I feel it. You’re not as alone as you thought.”

Author John Steinbeck

Author and Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck, early 1960s. (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)