To Try the Impossible Before the Inevitable

​Author Amy Tan at Seattle Arts & Lectures


Sounds echo across the walls of Benaroya Hall. They bounce back and forth in the giant space, resounding in each audience’s ears. However, at Amy Tan’s Seattle Arts and Lecture visit on June 5th, 2013, there were more than just sounds echoing across Benaroya Hall: there were unbelievably inspiring, incredible ideas.

Tan has written many world-renowned novels, like the insanely popular The Joy Luck Club, which was turned into a successful movie in 1993 and has been translated in 35 languages to-date. Tan has many other popular and well-written novels, like The Kitchen God’s Wife, Saving Fish from Drowning, The Hundred Secret Senses,” and more.

Although Tan’s books have received great recognition and success over the years, she barely mentioned her books or successes during the course of the lecture; rather, Tan opted to speak in depth about how and why she writes, revealing for the first and only time a letter that she wrote to her current editor. The letter was written as a response to the editor’s wish to receive a synopsis of her new book at the time: however, this letter was anything but a synopsis, explaining eventually why the entire idea of a synopsis goes against Tan’s beliefs as a writer. The letter was the focal point of the lecture, as Tan delved into her creative processes, her reasons for writing, and her ever-changing identity.

“I decided I needed to tell [the editor] who I was as a writer,” Tan said.

Tan went on to speak about how the entire premise of her writing is about the concept of death, that “one day, [she] is going to die,” and how she wants to know and write as much as possible until that time. “I want to cram in as much as possible: to try the impossible before the inevitable,” Tan said.

Tan spoke with great wisdom and clarity, so that all audience members could not only understand, but also empathize with her ideas. She allowed each viewer to have momentary personal insight into how tremendously she loves writing and how she works artistically, never feeling as though a book is complete.

“I’ve never written a novel that I felt was finished, but at some point I have to let it go.”

To conclude her inspirational performance, Tan left with wise words that could easily reflect any passionate writer’s outlook on writing: “I write to understand who I am and what I have come to be.”

Seattle Arts & Lectures' new season will pick up in September. Follow them on facebook to be the first to hear about the incredible authors, artists, and luminaries that they will be bringing to Seattle next year.

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