Book Notes

Book Notes - Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Someone Who's Been There by Cheryl Strayed

The book | Read June 2016 | Rating 4.25/5

1. Write a lot of sentences

"to write my first book, I had to do everything I did in my twenties. I had to write a lot of sentences that never turned into anything and stories that never miraculously formed a novel. I had to read voraciously and compose exhaustive entries in my journals. I had to waste time and grieve my mother and come to terms with my childhood and have stupid and sweet and scandalous sexual relationships and grow up."

"the best possible thing you can do is get your ass down onto the floor. Write so blazingly good that you can’t be framed."

 

2. Be brave

"This is who I am even if you’ll crucify me for it."

"Faking it never works. If you don’t believe me, read Richard Wright. Read Charlotte Brontë. Read Joy Harjo. Read Toni Morrison. Read William Trevor. Read the entire Western canon."

 

3. Do everything you can to avoid regret

Do not reach the era of child-rearing and real jobs with a guitar case full of crushing regret for all the things you wished you’d done in your youth. I know too many people who didn’t do those things. They all end up mingy, addled, shrink-wrapped versions of the people they intended to be.

"Not regretting it later is the reason I’ve done at least three-quarters of the best things in my life."

 

4. Your English degree isn't pointless

"I hope when people ask what you’re going to do with your English and/or creative writing degree you’ll say: Continue my bookish examination of the contradictions and complexities of human motivation and desire; or maybe just: Carry it with me, as I do everything that matters. And then smile very serenely until they say, Oh."

"Know that all those stories, poems, plays, and novels are a part of you now and that they are bigger than you and they will always be."

 

5. Read in your twenties (and don't be an asshole)

"go to a bookstore and buy ten books of poetry and read them each five times. Why? Because the truth is inside."

"in your twenties you’re becoming who you’re going to be and so you might as well not be an asshole."

you are so goddamned young. Which means about eight of the ten things you have decided about yourself will over time prove to be false. The other two things will prove to be so true that you’ll look back in twenty years and howl.

 

6. Take things apart, then build something better or let go

"When bad things happen, often the only way back to wholeness is to take it all apart."

"Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go."

 

7. Whatever happens, make it yours

"Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will."

 

8. Be a warrior for love

"You will learn a lot about yourself if you stretch in the direction of goodness, of bigness, of kindness, of forgiveness, of emotional bravery. Be a warrior for love."

"put your best self out there with as much transparency and sincerity and humor as possible."

 

9. Do one thing differently than you did before

"Real change happens on the level of the gesture. It’s one person doing one thing differently than he or she did before. It’s the man who opts not to invite his abusive mother to his wedding; the woman who decides to spend her Saturday mornings in a drawing class instead of scrubbing the toilets at home; the writer who won’t allow himself to be devoured by his envy"

 

10. Problem-solve

"I make lists. I attempt to analyze the situation from the perspective of my “best self”—the one that’s generous, reasonable, forgiving, loving, big hearted, and grateful." 

"I think really hard about what I’ll wish I did a year from now. I map out the consequences of the various actions I could take. I ask what my motivations are, what my desires are, what my fears are, what I have to lose, and what I have to gain. I move toward the light, even if it’s a hard direction in which to move. I trust myself. I keep the faith. I mess up sometimes."

 

11. Make your life lists

"Write down everything you don’t know about your future life—which is everything, of course—but use your imagination. What are the thoughts and images that come to mind when you picture yourself at twice the age you are now?"

"What is a good life? Write “good life” and list everything that you associate with a good life, then rank that list in order of importance. Have the most meaningful things in your life come to you as a result of ease or struggle? What scares you about sacrifice? What scares you about not sacrificing?"

"The sketches of your real life and your sister life are right there before you and you get to decide what to do. One is the life you’ll have; the other is the one you won’t. Switch them around in your head and see how it feels."

 

12. Salute the life you didn't choose from the shore

"I’ll never know, and neither will you of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore."

 

12. Not knowing when we'll die is the wonder of our existence

"We’re all going to die, but only some of us are going to die tomorrow or next year or in the next half century. And, by and large, we don’t know which of us it will be, when, and of what. That mystery is not the curse of our existence; it’s the wonder."

 

13. Assumptions about others don't mean a thing 

"Your assumptions about the lives of others are in direct relation to your naïve pomposity. Many people you believe to be rich are not rich. Many people you think have it easy worked hard for what they got. Many people who seem to be gliding right along have suffered and are suffering. Many people who appear to you to be old and stupidly saddled down with kids and cars and houses were once every bit as hip and pompous as you."

 

14. The useless days will add up to something

The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.
Lucy FuggleComment