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I’ve only known a handful of people who could apply Shakespeare to daily life gracefully, fewer still who could recite long passages as illumination. Yet another reason to be enchanted by author Ann Patchett, who recited Shakespeare’s St. Crispin’s Day speech at the McFadden Memorial Lecture Friday night in Indianapolis.

Patchett originally learned the passage as a gift of encouragement to her fellow independent booksellers. Evidently, head-to-head competition with the formidable online retailer Amazon and big-box retailers has a way of wearing you down and she felt they needed a lift. The fictional speech Patchett recited is about a real battle in the Hundred Year War, when Henry V’s army, badly weakened by dysentery but emboldened by his leadership, defeated the stronger French army.

Having committed that speech to memory, Patchett included it as part of her lecture, wielding it like a mighty weapon against several harmful myths. Among them:

Books are dead. In Nashville, Patchett helped open a 3,000 square foot independent bookstore (Parnassus Books) that replaced 60,000 square feet of profitable space vacated by two ginormous booksellers. It was all part of a bigger corporate strategy—not poor store performance. Imagine condensing all that demand for books into a store a fraction of the size. Patchett says her Nashville store is doing fine, thank you very much.

Libraries are dead. I can’t count the number of times I’ve read or heard people forecasting certain doom for libraries or questioning their relevancy. Guess what? Just because you and I can afford to buy our own books and internet service doesn’t mean everyone can or wants to. There’s never been a time during a down economy when library use hasn’t surged. That’s a fact. “The library is one of the places where America is at its best,” Patchett says. “It’s very important that you support the public library because it’s still a model of justice.”

Corporate America rules. “I use to think that things happened to us,” Patchett says. “I thought WalMart killed small town businesses. But we did it. We control our destiny.” Every time we insist on saving 37 cents on a package of toothpaste or quiz the staff at our locally-owned nursery for gardening information—and then run down the street to Lowe’s to buy all the supplies, we weaken our community and diminish local job opportunities. “It’s our responsibility to make the kind of community we want to live in,” Patchett says.

Talent determines what we achieve. One of the great mythologies of writing according to Patchett, is that it’s based on creativity and talent. Writing is actually more comparable to marriage. “At this point in my life, writing feels far less about creativity and talent and more about work,” she says. “I write by showing up every boring day and practicing the work.” If you’re waiting for a burst of inspiration or creativity, that day may never come. Writing, like all achievements, is based on work. Many of us desperately want to believe that what we admire in others is based on some sort of endowed talent, making such accomplishments off limits to the rest of us. What a convenient excuse to avoid pursuing a dream. With the right amount of work and determination, Patchett implies we can do most anything.

We have to change with the times. Patchett doesn’t watch TV and she doesn’t use Facebook or Twitter. That would probably diffuse the kind of focus it takes to carry around those splendid novels in her head. “I’m very much a product of my generation,” she says. “I really want to be careful with my brain. I can sit in a chair and do one thing for 12 hours. And there may be very few of us left.”

For those of us who measure life in terms of followers, her guarded approach to media merits some consideration. Social media has made my life more frenzied. Precious hours I used to devote to reading and other things that matter are hard to come by these days. I sometimes wonder whether it’s healthy for me, despite all the good that’s come of it. I can imagine what Patchett’s response would be to that sort of challenge. “God has yet to whisper in my ear,” she says of her own writing. “My hand is always on the wheel.”

Here’s one final offering from Patchett’s lecture.

For bloggers and other people who sling out content at breakneck speed with less and less time to refine our ideas and work, take a page from Patchett’s philosophy on guilt: stop beating yourself up. “Every time I write, I am confronted by my lack of intelligence and talent and wish I could put it down better than I have,” she says. How does she deal with that? “I have an overwhelming ability to forgive myself.” If that’s good practice for someone writing content made to reside in our hearts long after it’s read, how much more should it comfort us as we prepare content that’s quickly digested and soon forgotten?

Here are six books Patchett recommends.

Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling
Independent People, by Haldor Laxness
The Leopard, by Giuseppe, di Lampedusa
The All of It, by Jeannette Halen
Old Filth, by Jane Gardam
The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr (Here’s an old post which mentions other books on the subject. Obviously, I didn’t stick with the plan mentioned in the first paragraph of this post!)

What’s your favorite Ann Patchett novel? And how do you regulate the time you spend with technology? What is the net effect of the internet on your time? I’m linking this post to Not Dead Yet Style, so mosey on over and check out her Visible Monday series.

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.