All Posts By

Rachel Toor

My Best Advice

By | Running Times Magazine, Selected Essays | No Comments

It’s not unusual for me to get messages from friends, former students and strangers asking for help with their running. When faced with these requests, I’m happy to hammer out a content-free pep talk, sharing slogans and koans that have helped me in the past. Or I just say, “You can totally do this,” even if I have no idea whether it’s true.

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Presenting Without A Net

By | The Chronicle of Higher Education | No Comments

In an ideal world, whenever I was invited to give a talk or a lecture, it would go something like this:

I would spend a few weeks thinking about what I wanted to say. After a sufficient percolation period, I would sit at my computer and sweat out a complete draft.

Then I would spend months revising it, shoring up the structure, getting rid of ideas that didn’t fit, and dumping whatever seemed extraneous. I would add anecdotes, vivid images, and sparkling, funny phrases. I would hunt down -ly adverbs that seemed weak or lazy, and go on a search-and-destroy mission for needless this, that’s, and there’s. Finally, having driven myself crazy with perfectionist anxiety, I would tell myself I was ready.

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Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Writers

By | The Chronicle of Higher Education | No Comments

Asked if he thought he had evolved as a writer, Patrick Modiano, the most recent Nobel laureate in literature said, “No, not really. The feeling of dissatisfaction with every book remains just as alive. I had a longtime recurring dream: I dreamt that I had nothing left to write, that I was liberated. I am not, alas. I am still trying to clear the same terrain, with the feeling that I’ll never get done.”

 

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The Habits of Highly Productive Writers

By | The Chronicle of Higher Education | No Comments

Many writers I know love Joyce Carol Oates—some even refer to her as JCO, as if she were a brand as recognizable as CBS or BMW. But just as often, the mention of her name is met by groans and complaints about how much she’s written. Her productivity seems like an affront.

When someone’s doing a lot more than you, you notice it. It brings out your petty jealousy. And if you’re like me (occasionally petty and jealous), it might make you feel crappy about yourself. Which is, let’s face it, ridiculous. No one else’s achievements take anything away from yours, or mine. The fact that another writer is working hard and well should be nothing more than inspiration, or at least a gentle prod.

 

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