Letters to a Young Poet.jpg

Letters to a Young Poet

Rainer Maria Rilke

Or, available as a free PDF here.

This thin little book, a collection of letters between Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke and a fellow aspiring poet, is like a shock to the writing heart. Flip to any passage, and it can stoke the creative impulse when it’s lacking. It lies on the nightstand of some of the best writers I know, and opened spaces for me I hadn’t previously explored.

“There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple ‘I must,’ then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.”