Whatever kind of writer or creative artist you are, Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet is a voice worth listening to. The letters were written in the early 1900s when Rilke was about 30 years old. He wrote ten letters to a young poet named Franz Kappus, offering not only advice but a philosophy on how to cultivate the creative spirit. As a fiction author with three novels out, I often get discouraged. We writers know that art and struggle go hand and hand. I’ve read all the pep blogs about following your passion and keeping the faith, recognizing the common Van Gogh blues, blah, blah, blah. Rilke’s book is such a refreshing look at why a person writes at all. He addresses doubt, loneliness vs solitude, love, and patience. This is probably one of the most impressive of books I’ve read on this subject. The thoughts in this little 100-page book is a true source and one to keep on the night stand. I love to open a page at random and see what Rilke has to say to me for the day. Page 61 told me this morning that “We must embrace struggle. Every living thing conforms to it. Everything in nature grows and struggles in its own way, establishing its own identity, insisting on it at all cost, against all resistance.” This book is for any artist who wants inspiration on how to live as an artist.
A friend gave me this book as I was leaving the US for a 3 year aid program where I worked as a volunteer for the first two years and then for the UN and the OSCE in the former Yugoslavia. I needed a break from the capitalist rat race in the US and it was the perfect place to find out who I truly was deep down inside once everything is stripped away.
I read and re-read this book maybe ten times in those three years often reading passages and writing certain passages down over and over as I found so much meaning in practical experiences.
I also loaned the book to several internationals criss-crossing the world of conflict zones through out the world and that same book made its way back to me at least six times!
I went to a wedding after I was back in the US years later and they asked us to write meaningful statements that helped us through life and I was able to write, "For one person to love another is perhaps the ultimate task, it is that striving for which all other striving is merely preparation".
We can go far in life on our own, we can make lots of money and change things, help others find their way but, ultimately to feel content we need to love ourselves and be confident in who we are, and then and only then are we capable of having the most incredible relationships where we can use another who feels the same to help each other grow to experience the bonds and closeness that is so uncommon in life...
Its the most amazing book if you take it in and allow it to help you grow and find your way whether you are a peaceworker, photographer, writer, lumberjack, husband, wife, son, daughter... deep down when we strip the layers away we are the same... lose the ego and we are all the same vulnerable creatures looking for the same things...
I always keep an extra copy of this book on hand for gifts. I first read it my freshman year and college and reread it at least once a year. It is truly inspirational. I think most people will be able to relate to the wisdom and advice that Rilke offers to a young poet. If you can't apply it to your own life, it is still a wonderful read! I reread it at least once a year.