I’m enjoying a great book about writing: “Writing to Change the World” by Mary Pipher. She also wrote “Reviving Ophelia”, a book my wife read a few years ago about the maze of conflicting messages that poison adolescent girls against themselves in our modern society. I need to read that soon, now that my oldest daughter has just entered the jungle of junior high.
“Writing to Change the World” reminds me of things I should already know, but only spottily do. Like treat those who disagree with you with respect. Write what you alone can say. Write bad first drafts. Move the world just a little bit.
Here’s her take on success:
“Success means we have done our best. We have not squandered our gifts or ignored our responsibilities. We have given our time and talents to help others. We have used our freedom to free someone else. Success is not fame or awards; it is having our ideas discussed by other people.”
This sounded good, until I realized it is probably much harder to be responsible and use privilege for good than it is to get published somewhere. Defining success by quantity and fame would allow me to play guilt-free golf all day if I could just get someone to give me some kind of award.
I didn’t know much about Mary Pipher before picking up this book, but recently noticed a news item that she had returned an American Psychological Association Presidential Citation. The AMA shamefully continues to allow professional psychologists to take part in interrogation techniques that include torture, and she returned her award as a symbolic protest.
I must say I am duly impressed. She is an engaging writer, a social activist and someone to emulate. I hope she plays golf too.