What Leo Gursky can teach you about writing (and about life)

9780141019970h“At times I believed that the last page of my book and the last page of my life were one and the same, that when my book ended I’d end, a great wind would sweep through my rooms carrying the pages away, and when the air cleared of all those fluttering white sheets the room would be silent, the chair where I sat would be empty.” (Leo Gursky in: The History of Love, Nicole Krauss, p. 9)

Do you live and write like Leo Gursky?
Leo Gursky is an old man, living in an a shady, small apartment somewhere in New York. He’s about to die. Or at least. That’s what I think he is. I’ve just met the man (I only know him for 9 pages now) and he has already made a deep impression on me with his witty thoughts and observations. The above is just one example of many (and I’ve only read 9 pages :o)).

Now what does Leo Gursky actually tells us about life and writing?

I’ve sifted the quote and these were the grains of gold I came up with:

  • Vitality: The moment before my death is the moment life reaches its ultimate peak. Details often stand out best when shown in contrast. It is the darkness in the black and white picture which reveals the whiteness of the light. I want to reach the same in my writings. I want everything up to the final full stop to be vibrant, thrilling and moving. Even when I’d write about a frozen, dozed off winter landscape you should feel the energy captivated in the heart of the squirrel sleeping in his nest, or the rays of the sun melting their way through beautiful ice cristals or the seeds deep down in the earth holding their breath until they shall reach the surface when spring arives.
  • Passion: What’s most loved is most missed. Suppose the final stop at the end of what I’d write today would be the end of my writings as well as the end of my life, would I then miss it? And would it be missed? Are the things I write for things I care for? Does it really matter to me? If I look back on my best writings then I’d have to conclude that these were pieces on subjects that touched me. They litterally influenced my life, made me change my path, woke me up when I was asleep. These are the things I’d miss. Writing is like working for the world wildlife fund. You’re saving endangered species from imaginary extinction.
  • Joy: While touching upon my deepest thoughts and feelings I reach something which I believe is close to the essence of my human being (yes, a present continuous indeed). It’s called joy. Joy is different from passion since it is, well, more modest, I’d say. But don’t let the appearance fool you. Joy is the core of the sun while passion is like the rays and explosions visible at the surface. Joy is you being there making other people happy with your mere presence.
  • Finality: So what if all things were as final as the final full stop of today’s writings. What if everything would end with your book. Would you be inclined to finalize what you are writing right now? Would this help you to focus on what you really want to say instead of just using yet another line and yet another bunch of phrases to describe whatever comes up in your head? I’m someone who likes to wander around but sometimes wandering around is nothing more than a way to hide the fact that I’m afraid of hitting the road. If you’d know you’d have only one day to live you’d be forced to hit the road. If you’d know your final stop today would be final you’d be forced to write about what you really care for.
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