Currently reading: Dancing with the Gods by Kent Nerburn 📚

I know nothing at all about Kent Nerburn, so it’s interesting to read this book of reflections on creative work.

I did notice, though, that the US version of this book has been re-named to: The Artist’s Journey: On Making Art and Being an Artist. This alternative title reminds me of the format of Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, in the sense that both authors offer reflections on their creative experience, having been prompted by a letter from a younger person, wondering about setting out on a career as an artist. The difference is that Rilke was rather young to be dishing out such ‘wisdom’, whereas Nerburn has lived a bit.

To be fair to Rilke, though, he didn’t seek out Franz Xaver Kappus, the nineteen year old military cadet who first wrote for advice when Rilke was only twenty seven. Nor did Rilke publish his letters of advice. They were only collected and published after his death, by Kappus. Nor finally was Rilke’s advice in any way arrogant. He said:

“Nobody can advise you and help you. Nobody. There is only one way—Go into yourself.”

Rilke’s advice didn’t make Kappus a poet. It didn’t make him abandon his military career. He was an officer for 15 years and fought in WW1. But Rilke surely helped make him a writer. Kappus wrote novels and screenplays and was a newspaper editor for many years.

That’s the thing about advice. People receive it and then they do what they want with it. Oscar Wilde said:

“I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.”

Though given his legal difficulties, perhaps he should have listened, just once.

I finished Dancing with the Gods.
Can Rilke change your life?