The Colors of Life

Benjamin Franklin once opined: Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.

To me, this speaks to the intersection of writing and life. The more fully you dive into life, the more pearls you’ll fetch up to tell us about.

Franklin fits the bill. He ran newspapers and published an annual best-selling pamphlet, Poor Richard’s Almanack—while also making a name for himself as a statesman, scientist, and inventor of such items as the lightning rod, bifocals, and swim fins.

This is why I like Gotham’s “Be” artwork that we post on social media every Friday. You’ll see an example in the upper right corner. These are original pieces created by Gotham staff member Justin Street. Each Friday they say Be________. Write.

Some examples: Be Fresh. Be Free. Be Honest. Be Beyond. Be Badass. You’ll see all of them displayed right here.

This artwork, as I see it, isn’t just telling you to bring these qualities to your writing, but to bring them to your life and then let that influence what you say and how you say it.

If your life is feeling too monochromatic, find ways to open yourself to the many colors of life that surround you. They’re always right there, but sometimes we have to remind ourselves to see them, touch them, live them.

The colors, of course, aren’t always so cheerful, and we shouldn’t be afraid to experience the darker shades of sadness and fear and such, all of which are part of life’s spectrum.

Here’s a paragraph from Jeannette Winterson’s memoir Why Be Happy When You Could be Normal?, coming after she leaves home because her sexuality and worldview did not align well with her Pentecostal Christian family. This could well have been inspired by our Be Resilient:

When I left home at sixteen I bought a small rug. It was my roll-up world.
Whatever room, whatever temporary place I had, I unrolled the rug. It was
a map of myself. Invisible to others, but held in the rug, were all the places
I had stayed—for a few weeks, for a few months. On the first night anywhere
new I liked to lie in bed and look at the rug to remind myself that I had what
I needed even though what I had was so little.

Oh, yes, here life and writing are so beautifully intertwined.

Somewhat related, you might want to enter Gotham’s Past Year Contest, where we invite you to share a story from your 2021 in 21 words or fewer. It gives you a chance to follow this advice from Anaïs Nin: We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.

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Alex Steele
President, Gotham Writers Workshop

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