In 2006, a class of students at New York's Xavier High School were tasked with writing their favorite authors and inviting them to school. Five students wrote to Kurt Vonnegut, who was subsequently the sole author to respond to the class.
His response letter has since been turned into a short video called "Make Your Soul Grow" by Dogtooth Films, released earlier in 2014, made with students from the United Kingdom's Hove Park School.
Vonnegut was 84 years old in 2006, when he sent students his heartfelt note. In it he purveyed wisdom on living a fruitful and art-filled life. In the closing of his letter, he in turn tasked the students with another assignment: to write a six-line poem, about anything.
Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:
I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don't make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.
What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what's inside you, to make your soul grow.
Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you're Count Dracula.
Here's an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don't do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don't tell anybody what you're doing. Don't show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?
Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals [sic]. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what's inside you, and you have made your soul grow.
God bless you all!
Vonnegut's words ring true as much today as when he wrote them, a year before his death in 2007.
Watch the film adaptation of his letter above to hear the celebrated author's timeless advice.