In his book, Life Itself, the late film critic Roger Ebert recounted the greatest writing lesson he ever received. It came from a slightly older colleague, Bill Lyons, when both were sports columnists.
After watching Ebert try again and again to come up with a great first line, Lyons advised, “One, don’t wait for inspiration, just start the damn thing. Two, once you begin, keep on until the end. How do you know how the story should begin until you find out where it’s going?”
Sound advice for any writer.
This is also the week that Ian Banks revealed he has cancer and will not be with us much longer.
Two wonderful voices, going or gone. As we get older parts of our extended lives fall away—the authors whose books we love, the actors we look forward to seeing in another film, and most sadly the friends and family members we somehow assume will be around forever (or at least the tiny bit of forever granted to us). I suppose we should be glad we’re not the ones who have fallen…yet.
What do we learn along the way? Well, I like what Ebert learned:
“Kindness" covers all of my political beliefs. ... I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”