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img_2128In addition to her propensity for writing books we love, author Ann Patchett has two striking traits:

1. She has almost no relationship with screens. That includes TV, cell phones, social media and the like. For a writer, the ability to sustain attention is a tool, one that Patchett guards like the family jewels. She’s hip to the well-documented downside of online behavior. Too much screen time could easily rob her of the time and focus she needs to write books.
2. Before she was famous for her work, she made peace with the fact that she might always be an obscure writer. Becoming famous or selling her work wasn’t Patchett’s end goal; success was always about writing, just showing up and doing what she loved, whether or not anyone read or liked it.

In a world that threatens to relegate us into oblivion if we operate without an online imprint, that’s quite a brave decision. (Consider the subtitle of her bookstore: An Independent Bookstore for Independent People.) Now that she’s actually famous, you might think, “Easy for you to say, Ann,” but here’s the reality: she made these choices when she was just like you and me—people who would do what we do, whether we get paid for it or not, whether we’re famous for it or not. It’s possible/probable that Patchett got famous precisely because she didn’t care about fame. What she cared about was accomplishment, development and craft.

That should be inspiration for reluctant writers, artists, chefs, seamstresses, photographers or anything else people choose to do. Hey, it’s a free country.

If you want to write, then write.
Want to sew, then sew.
Want to cook, then cook.
Want to take pictures, then shoot.
Want to paint, then paint.

Do it as much as you can, as often as you can. Protect your time so you can do it for hours on end. Make it your ambition to get paid for it, if that’s important to you. That’s fine, indeed. Just remember the lesson that top achievers master: getting famous is hardly the point. Some things are worth doing for their own sake, for the gifts you share and out of unadulterated love. Can you deal with not being at THE BEST? Most of us can as long as we know that we are being OUR BEST.

As I write this post, I’m thinking of two people in particular (you know who you are) who are beginning their journeys as bloggers. Both fear that their work will not be original or special enough to stand out. To this, I say “What a bunch of hooey!”

According to scientists who’ve mapped the human genome, the amount of data it takes to create each human being would completely load 2,000 Titanic ships with thumb drives. The fundamental part of you—your DNA—is shorter, only 262,640 pages of unique, complex information. (Keep moving forward, my friends. You’re unique. You’re not famous, but you’re unique.)

My book-loving friends and I are looking so forward to reading Ann Patchett’s seventh novel, Commonwealth. Last night we met at Fishers, where some friends of ours have started a new coffee house, The Well. If you live near Fishers, Indiana (or Nashville, Tennessee, where Patchett resides and owns  Parnassus Books), do visit. You really MUST hear the story behind The Well. They are serving much more than coffee.

What are you reading?

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.


P.S. One more thing just for J & W. I love to bake cakes. The fact that mine look like they were prepared by a third-grader has nothing to do with that. Here’s Pink Champagne Cake, drawn from Vintage Cakes. I may or may not have enjoyed a glass of the leftover champagne that came from this cake.