The Prompter Room

For Friday, December 28, 2018:


I know artists whose medium is life itself, and who express the inexpressible without brush, pencil, chisel or guitar.  They neither paint nor dance.  Their medium is Being.  Whatever their hand touches has increased life … They are the artists of being alive.

Frederick Franck (h/t RAB)


The Prompter Room

For Tuesday, November 27, 2018:


Imperfection is in some sort essential to all that we know of life. It is the sign of life in a mortal body, that is to say, of a state of progress and change. Nothing that lives is, or can be, rigidly perfect; part of it is decaying, part nascent… And in all things that live there are certain irregularities and deficiencies which are not only signs of life, but sources of beauty … All admit irregularity as they imply change; and to banish imperfection is to destroy expression, to check exertion, to paralyze vitality. All things are literally better, lovelier, and more beloved for the imperfections which have been divinely appointed, that the law of human life may be Effort, and the law of human judgment, Mercy.


The Prompter Room

For Tuesday, June 5, 2018:


Be still, life, be still – like the surface of a pond – and you’ll see the fish – swim through – the clouds and the fronds!

… Be sweet and slow, life, – like the honey of the bees, – and you’ll taste all the – flowers that they brush – with their knees.

Ohara Hale, BE STILL, LIFE


[Note: I could not format this here as the author has it, so the dashes (-) above indicate the correct line breaks.]



The Prompter Room

For Friday, October 27, 2017:


Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart … Try to love the questions themselves … Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given because you would not be able to live them – and the point is to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answers.

Rainer Maria Rilke

The Prompter Room

For Tuesday, December 27, 2016:


Literature differs from life in that life is amorphously full of detail, and rarely directs us toward it, whereas literature teaches us to notice.  Literature makes us better noticers of life; we get to practice on life itself; which in turn makes us better readers of detail in literature; which in turn makes us better readers of life.


Quoted in THE ART OF MEMOIR by Mary Karr

The Prompter Room

For Monday, December 14, 2015:


“A true piece of writing is a dangerous thing.  It can change your life.”

Tobias Wolff

Perhaps it depends on one’s perspective.

Try as I might, I can’t think of anything I’ve read that has been dangerous for my life, or even for my thinking.  Wondrous, challenging, exciting, disheartening, surprising … all of those, yes, and more.  But not dangerous.

That goes for my own writing, too.  I’ve written opinion pieces that I hoped would encourage individuals and/or certain groups of people to change their ways of thinking, but I don’t think they were dangerous.  Maybe some readers thought so, especially if they disagreed with me, or if I did manage to change their minds, but no one ever gave any indication that happened.

Now if Wolff means ‘dangerous’ in a way that more closely resembles ‘disorienting,’ I can agree with that, up to a point.  The Bible, for instance, should be – in my opinion – just as disorienting as it is comforting.  Disorientation can be almost as frightening as danger, however loosely one defines ‘danger,’ whether it’s physical or intellectual or spiritual.

At the same time, I don’t think ‘dangerous’ or ‘disorientation’ – or even ‘comforting,’ on the other side of that coin – is the definition of a true piece of writing.

If I were asked to define it, I would ask if a piece of writing makes a connection of some kind with at least one reader.  If so, that, to me, makes it true.  Even then, though, a true piece of writing can be hidden away in a desk drawer and never see the light of day.  That doesn’t make it any more or less true.

What do you think?  I’d love to hear your thoughts, to help me ponder this more thoroughly.

If nothing else, I’d say Wolff succeeded in making a connection with me.  Dangerous, disorienting, life-changing?  No.  But I know this much is true: he has certainly made me think.