So last night I’m in Barnes & Noble. I felt pulled there. Don’t know why. I’m perusing the new fiction and then the general literature section. Mulling over my choices.

Then I remember Jodie Foster. In an earlier post I talked about her favorite books as she described them in O magazine. And the one that stood out was one she has given to a few directors wrapped in a silk scarf. But darned if I can remember the name as I’m standing in Barnes & Noble. Hmmmmm. Wait. It was Rilke, something about letters he wrote in a sort of mentoring way.

Maybe the guy at the customer service counter can work some magic with a search engine, I think. And he’s cool with it. In fact, he jumps right in when I wax on about Jodie Foster because he, too, saw her on The Actor’s Studio last week. And then he finds the book in the database. And then he confirms they have it in stock. So I buy it.

I spent much of today reading Letters To A Young Poet by Rainer Marie Rilke. It was a perfect, cloudless afternoon at the waterfront. I read one half with a nice cup of pumpkin-flavored coffee, the second half later with a container of refreshing orange juice. I devoured that 109-page book and loved it for its candor, its intent, its wisdom. There is a foreword by Stephen Mitchell, synchronous because my well-worn copy of the Tao Te Ching is a Stephen Mitchell.

Anyway, this is a section that I want to share with every creative person who comes to me wanting advice about how to be a writer, how to get published, etc. Check it out:

You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you — no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself.

And the paragraph goes on, but you get the idea. What a wonderful message. Perhaps a splash of cold water to the face for some, but think how eye-opening that is once the shock wears off.

I know this is a book I will give to others (wrapped in a silk scarf?). I know it is a book I will continually turn to. I love these kinds of discoveries.

Thank you, Jodie.