The Back Story Behind Titling “The Vitality of the Struggle”

Tuesday, February 8, 2011 - 1:00 pm

The Back Story Behind Titling “The Vitality of the Struggle”

Statue of Gertrude Stein
Raindrops pour down the statue of late U.S. author Gertrude Stein in New York’s Bryant Park. (photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

“You always have in your writing the resistance outside of you and inside of you, a shadow upon you, and the thing which you must express. In the beginning of your writing this struggle is so tremendous that the result is ugly…but the essence of that ugliness is the thing which will always make it beautiful. I myself think it is much more interesting when it seems ugly, because in it you see the element of the fight … the vitality of the struggle.”
—Gertrude Stein, How Writing Is Written

Naturalist and author Terry Tempest Williams used the phrase “the vitality of the struggle” in our interview to explain that she doesn’t have the answers to the broad rhetorical questions (e.g., “What do we do?”) people sometimes bring to her.
This phrase resonated with our senior editor, and Krista soon supplanted the show’s working title with this instead. Williams noted on our reflections page that this phrase is inspired by American writer and thinker Gertrude Stein. Williams writes:

“I have always held that phrase close. It does feel like poetry because it holds the paradox of our human condition.”


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is the cofounder of On Being and currently serves as chief content officer and executive editor. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on “The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi” and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent’s reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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