What I Learned

At Least, So Far: Responses by Roger Sween


I do not see much evidence that humans have learned how to live together.

Given free rein, I imagine I would carry on as I have.

A couple of weeks away from civilization would feed my concentration.

I would go to Granada as an afterthought from Provençal.

Phaeton Flight I wrote one summer; everything else has taken the rest of my life.

I do not talk to young writers because they do not talk to me.

Once in twenty years, I think I may catch up. That thought passes quickly.

I most probably would not have been a librarian except for Rolf Erickson recommending I take library courses as employment insurance.

It is just like when I was twenty and I pondered where I was going.

If all I did was read books, I would be deliriously happy.

It is like hunting for any lost item: there is always a logical explanation for where it went.

I do not hunt mammals; only ideas.

Unlike a lot of writers, I think most reliance on conflict for story tends to be stupid.

They published many of my poems in Poetic Strokes, but politely ignored all my suggestions for improving the publication and its program.

I do not think I suffer from writer’s block; rather I lack confidence in measuring up to standards of excellence.

Fifty-two years later and we are still married. I often think of Narum’s statements in Ethics class about the ontology of marriage – shared values.

The interesting thing about the writers I most admire – Hugo, Heinlein, Le Guin, Lively – is their ability to make the nonexistent convincing.

It is overwhelming when you learn something from history that you never knew before, and then you realize how much more you still do not know.

The reason why writers write is that they must unravel their sentiments.

I revere bears and almost all animals in nature, though only at a distance.

I work every morning and most of every day attempting to bring order to my life and thought.

If you have written all day, that day is another good one.

My grandmothers lived into their eighties, each different from the other: knowing them into adulthood became my good fortune; now I miss their steadiness.

All people are unique individuals, their essential worth.

I do not want to die until I have finished at least one novel to my satisfaction.

Has happiness changed with age? My standards are higher, but I expect less.

No conclusions on time; despite, since reading Schnackenburg’s The Uses of Time (1957), I have been obsessed with the dimensions of history.

You end up respecting complexity in an appreciative way.

What is the meaning of it all? However much we persevere, our lives remain essentially minuscule in the ultimate scheme.

Now, where can I do the most good today?


Based on “Jim Harrison: What I’ve Learned,” Esquire (August 2014). With appreciation to Robert Hanson for sending me the web location.

I followed the opening lead on Harrison’s responses, altered so the words fit me and answered in ways as I understand myself.

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