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no good stopping place

“With literature, as with the arts, as with faith—and life—there is really no good stopping place.”
–Dr. Richard H. Cracroft

I took the quotation above from an article published in my alumni magazine by a former professor of mine, Dr. Cracroft. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, he taught the Wallace Stegner senior course, and that class shaped me as a person, a reader, and a writer.

I love this quote because I think I expect, or hope for, good stopping places. A nice photo finish to an event; a clear and natural tapering to something, an obvious denouement. But it’s not like that in life. It’s not even like that in books.

Even after we close a book, or finish writing a novel, the story goes on in our minds; we turn it over as we try to sleep; we move it forward as we wipe the counters, change the diapers. We leave it alone but come back to it and pick it up again.

I have crossed paths with Dr. Cracroft several times since I took that class. He lives close enough to me that sometimes I see him in our church building; I am always delighted, as I think we all are, when we see a teacher who truly changed our learning and our lives.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about letting my teaching license expire. I’ve kept it up for eleven years and right now there are many demands on my time (and keeping up a license requires taking classes, tests, etc.). But it’s hard to let go. For years, I dreamed of becoming a Dr. Cracroft or a Marilyn Fotheringham (seventh grade reading) or a Jeana Rock, Louise Durham, Joyce Oldroyd, Jon Ostenson, or Karen Brown (teachers who mentored me when I was a beginner). Reading this article made me realize that perhaps there never really is a good stopping place for the things we love.

As always, Dr. Cracroft has given me a great deal of food for thought.

The article by Dr. Cracroft can be found in its entirety here at BYU Magazine.

P.S. I’ve responded to all the comments on the last post. Many thanks for sharing what you love right now!

+ comments (9)
  • Gayle Forman
    January 17, 2012

    In A Movable Feast, Ernest Hemingway talks about always finishing his day’s writing when he has a little bit left at the bottom of the well, so it can replenish itself for the next day.

    I feel like that’s good advice, for writing, and perhaps for life, too.


  • Zina
    January 17, 2012

    My husband was up until 3 AM last night figuring out how to green-screen my 11-year-old’s footage of her pygmy hedgehog so it can look like a giant hedgehog attacking her siblings. When my husband got up this morning (at 7 to get to work by 8) I told him that his main problem with staying up too late, whether playing video games or working on projects, is the illusion of being almost finished–of nearly being to a good stopping point–and that to get enough sleep he’s going to have to learn to stop before a good stopping point.

    I have the same problem with good books–I’m much more likely to stay up all night reading if I’m 50 pages from the end than if I’ve just started a book.

    (Not stopping before a good stopping point might also be why I write blog comments that are too long.)

  • Marrrren
    January 18, 2012

    “Even after we close a book, or finish writing a novel, the story goes on in our minds; we turn it over as we try to sleep; we move it forward as we wipe the counters, change the diapers. We leave it alone but come back to it and pick it up again.”

    I agree with you 100%! I love literature, reading and writing, and all the books I’ve read so far have, in some ways, stayed with me for a while after I’m finished.
    Your book “Matched” was the last book I read and I loved it. Can’t wait to read Crossed and the third part also!

    Greetings and love from Estonia! 🙂

  • Dr. Sallie N. Cheinsteen
    January 18, 2012

    I have to say thank you for the beautiful article – I loved it so much! I needed to read those words so much at this very moment, at a difficult time in my life. What an amazing writer he is! It helped me to not give up on finding the inspiration I gain from books, and I’m so grateful to you for this post.

  • DebStevens
    January 19, 2012

    Two things come to mind:

    One, I suppose we wouldn’t care that [insert event or thing here…The Lord of the Rings, Thanksgiving, marriage, the life of a beloved person or pet, a long-time dream…] ended if we didn’t love it so much, or have invested hopes and/or fears.

    Two, at least part of the love comes from the fact that we’ll not always have that thing, or at the very least it’ll change, so it becomes more cherished.

    You’re right, we hope good things will last and last, and there’s never a happy place to let go and stop hoping, though inevitably we must.

    But hope continues on in other things. You may never be a Dr. Cracroft, but now you can be Ally Condie. And I would never have heard of you if it were otherwise.

    You are the Marilyn Fotheringham for many of us aspiring writers. So thank you for being you instead.

    — dbstevens, kickingcorners.blogspot.com

  • Heidi
    January 19, 2012

    I recently had Dr. Ostenson for a class, what a truly wonderful professor he is!

  • Ali
    January 21, 2012

    That’s a tough decision to let your teaching license expire. It’s hard to let go. You’d be a great teacher, but sounds like you’ve got lots on your plate and may be plenty busy with your writing career for a long time to come.

  • Alice
    January 21, 2012

    I read and loved that article too. He reminded me of myself and why I love stories so much.

    It is a tough decision whether to let things go. I am lucky enough to be able to keep an inactive license and only have to do the classes when I want to activate it again (I guess they’re pickier about teachers than LCSWs in Utah). Even still, I have a hard time remembering ‘Oh yeah. I’m a mom now.’ My education and career seem to peter out very slowly, so I’m sure at one point I’ll be able to let it lapse, but not for years yet.

  • Christy
    January 26, 2012

    That is such a great quote. And so true. We look forward to the ending of something, only to find out that it’s the beginning of something else.

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