Happy Memorial Day weekend, writers!
For most people, this weekend is a brilliant excuse to relax by a lake somewhere, eating a hotdog and sipping a beer at 1:00 in the afternoon. For freelancers like me, it’s an excuse to have a three-day weekend to catch up on a few editing projects. Many of us probably don’t let our thoughts linger too long on the original intent of Memorial Day, if it even crosses our minds at all.
Memorial Day (originally “Decoration Day”) originated after the American Civil War, its purpose being to commemorate fallen American soldiers. Over time, it became a time of memory and commemoration in general, as families would use the time to visit the graves of loved ones and reflect on the past. This Memorial Day, let’s take a look at advice from six of the great authors and literary contributors who left the world in the past year.
Christopher Hitchens, columnist and literary critic:
Take the risk of thinking for yourself, much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way.
Barbara Grier, founder of Naiad Press and publisher of over 500 lesbian books:
Even if you have the next Gone with the Wind, it will not sell itself.
Gil Scott-Heron, influential author, poet, and musician whose works paved the way for the evolution of hip-hop:
There is so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us, that it behooves all of us not to talk about the rest of us.
Ann McCaffrey, science fiction and fantasy author of more than twenty novels:
I think writers need windows on a view to remind them that a whole world is out there, not the minutiae with which they might be dealing on a close scale.
Stetson Kennedy, folklorist, writer, human rights activist, and infiltrator and exposer of the Ku Klux Klan
Oral history represents a democratization of the history-telling process . . . this thing of having history recorded from on high for us, instead of doing it for ourselves, has proven to be a risky business. We need to have history from the bottom up.
George Whitman, founder of the legendary Parisian bookstore Shakespeare & Co. and shelter-giver for about 50,000 writer-types over the years:
But after being in all mankind it is hard to come to terms with oblivion—not to see hundreds of millions of Chinese with college diplomas come aboard the locomotive of history—not to know if someone has solved the riddle of the universe that baffled Einstein in his futile efforts to make space, time, gravitation and electromagnetism fall into place in a unified field theory—never to experience democracy replacing plutocracy in the military-industrial complex that rules America—never to witness the day foreseen by Tennyson “when the war-drums no longer and the battle-flags are furled, in the parliament of man, the federation of the world.”
Writers (and readers), who is in your personal memory this year? This weekend, take a moment to reflect on and honor their gifts, and use your reflection as inspiration for your writing.