The same side of two coins?

He said, “I’ve never written anything just for fun.

I wish I could show you the look of absolute incredulity on his face as he said it.  I’m sure it was identical to my own expression at the time.  You see, he was responding to my remark that my writing group “gets me writing things I wouldn’t normally, just for fun.”


I could see it in his eyes.  Did Not Compute.  Whereas I couldn’t process the idea of writing not being fun.

He has a message to deliver to the world, and his writing life is geared towards developing the right voice to broadcast his message.  I am the kid playing in the corner with coloured pens and strings of words while the grown-ups do the Important Stuff.

Good for him.  And good for me too.  Both approaches are equally valid.  We all have our own ways of being and our own ways of writing – not to mention our own reasons for doing it in the first place.  There’s no one Right Way.  Your way, his way, my way: they’re all right.  And one day, for a time, I might adopt his way, or he might try mine, or we might both discover yours.  If it works, do it.  If it doesn’t, try something new.

I have to end with one of my favourite quotes.  I’m not sure I fully understand it (I am, after all, a child at heart), but I love the playful use of words, and it seems appropriate to so many things.  It’s from Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead:

For some of us it is performance, for others patronage. They are two sides of the same coin, or, let us say, being as there are so many of us, the same side of two coins.”

Positive thinking and how to begin

Sometimes when you really read that inspiring quote, you find it doesn’t quite give the message you thought it did.  You know words are my thing – they have to be right!

Here’s one I found recently:

“If you must begin, then go all the way, because if you begin and quit, the unfinished business you have left behind you begins to haunt you all the time.”(Trungpa Rinpoche – I read this as an extract in a book that wasn’t the original source, so can’t tell you anything about him I’m afraid. But I’ve been pondering his words.)

At first I thought, “yes – encouragement to do, to move forward, to simply begin.”  And I think that’s probably how it was meant.  But then I read it again and it sounds a little threatening.  Surely, if unfinished business comes back to haunt you, it’s safer to not begin at all?  The advice sounds rather like we should only begin if we’re absolutely sure we can finish what we start – and how many of us can be sure of that?

But we do like to be sure, don’t we?  We want to know where we’re going before we set out.  Not only that, we want to know exactly how we’re going to get there.  So often we hear or read the advice (attributed to Laurence J Peter), “if you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.”

Maybe.  But somewhere else might turn out to be better!  And what happened to simply enjoying the journey?  Surely it’s better to just begin – to take that single step, write that first paragraph, pick up that piece of clay – and enjoy the adventure of the journey, rather than to sit and wait until every piece is meticulously planned?  Where’s the magic in that?

And, speaking of magic, here’s a much more uplifting piece of advice about beginnings which I think we should all follow, today:

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
P.S. As an aside, that final quotation is often attributed to Goethe, but in looking it up just now to make sure I’d got it right, I discovered that he sort of wrote it, but mostly didn’t.  (I wouldn’t know; I’ve never read anything by Goethe any more than I’ve read Socrates.  I just like a good turn of phrase.)  Go here and here if you’re interested.