In 2006, students from the New York-based Xavier High School were asked to write to their favorite authors and ask them to come visit the school. Several of the students chose late-great sci-fi author Kurt Vonnegut, who was 84 at the time. Due to his age, Vonnegut no longer made public appearances, especially since (in his words) he resembled an iguana. But he drafted up a lovely response to the students, as well as their teacher Ms. Lockwood. He provided the kids with some choice nuggets of inspirational wisdom, as well as a handy exercise that I think we could all benefit from. He said:
"Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow. Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula."
He also told the students to head home, write a six-line rhyming poem, and…
"Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash receptacles. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow."
Read the rest of the letter at the terrific Tumblr Letters of Note.
[Header image: “Vonnegut” by jeffhx]