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Life Lessons from Louis L’Amour

As readers of this blog already know, I tend to prefer reading nonfiction over fiction. But they also know that I’m trying to break out of that rut and read a little fiction now and then.

Within the fiction genre, I’m not really what one would call a fan of Westerns, but I’m working on that, too. At least I’m trying. I’ve read a Zane Grey novel. I’ve even read a Max Brand book. But I’ve yet to read one by Louis L’Amour. So, to stretch myself, while browsing the shelves of a local used bookstore, I picked up a copy of a memoir he wrote: Education of a Wandering Man (1989). In it, he has a lot of helpful lessons on education and learning, reading and writing. Now that I’ve seen inside the man, so to speak, I’m really tempted to find one of his Westerns and taste it. And, mind you, I’m only half-way through the book. I’m sure there will be  much more for me to learn in the second half! I’d like to share a few of those gems in this week’s blog.

On Education:

“[N]o university exists that can provide an education; what a university can provide is an outline, to give the learner a direction and guidance. The rest one has to do for oneself.”

“Education depends on the quality of the teacher, not the site or beauty of the buildings. . . .”

“[S]chool was interfering with my education. . . .” (He dropped out in tenth grade.)

There is no reason why anyone cannot get an education if he or she wants it badly enough and is persistent.”

“We do not at present educate people to think but, rather, to have opinions, and that is something altogether different.”

“I think the greatest gift anyone can give to another is the desire to know, to understand. Life is not for simply watching spectator sports, or for taking part in them; it is not for simply living from one working day to the next. Life is for delving, discovering, learning.”

“Only one who has learned much can fully appreciate his ignorance. He knows so well the limits of his knowledge and how much lies waiting to be learned.”

On Reading:

“I have read because I loved reading, and I have learned because I loved learning, yet all one needs cannot come from books. It can come from sounds, from music, from the play of light and shadow, from the people one meets or those one does not meet.”

“One book always led to another and occasionally my discoveries led to a whole succession of books. . . .”

On the Historian’s Challenge:

“A mistake constantly made by those who should know better is to judge people of the past by our standards rather than their own. The only way men or women can be judged is against the canvas of their own time.”

On the Sources of His Ideas:

“I was used to listening to older people talk, and enjoyed their stories. Moreover, I had an insatiable curiosity about places and people.”

“[N]o matter where you go, . . . there are stories. . . . [O]ne has only to listen, to look, and to live with awareness. . . .[A]ll men look, but so few can see.”

“For a writer, . . . everything is grist for the mill, and a writer cannot know too much. Sooner or later everything he does know will find its uses. A writer’s brain is like a magician’s hat. If you’re going to get anything out of it, you have to put something in first.”

“If a person does not have ideas, he had better not even think of becoming a writer. But ideas are everywhere.”

“The raw material is not important. It is what the writer does with the material.”

On Writing/Publishing:

“Too many books are written about writing by those who are not writers.”

“One is not by decision, just a writer. One becomes a writer by writing . . . and doing it constantly.”

“[R]emember that we are writing about people. Ideas are important only as they affect people. . . . Writing is a learning process. One never knows enough, and one is never good enough.”

“If one is any good as a writer at all, he must be constantly improving, learning, finding better ways of saying what needs to be said.”

I dare say that when I read one of his novels, I’ll find threads of these views scattered throughout! Can’t wait!

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