Composing a life

by Mary Catherine Bateson

Paper Book, 2001




New York : Grove Press, [2001].


This extraordinary book explores that act of creation that engages us all--the compostition of our lives. Through the comparative biographies of herself and four of her close friends, Mary Catherine Bateson provides a fascinating framework for her inquiry into the creative potential of complex lives, where energies are not narrowly focused toward a single ambition but rather are continually refocused and redefined.Each of the women in Composing a Life faced discontinuity at periods in her life, yet was rich in professional achievement and personal relationships. Bateson's life-affirming conclusion is that life is an improvisational art form, and that the interruptions, conflicted priorities, and exigencies that are a part of all our lives can and should be seen as a source of wisdom. Important and empowering, Composing a Life will change lives.… (more)

Media reviews

The Mission List
From When I was 22, I worked at, and co-founder Nancy Evans suggested I read a book called Composing a Life, written by Margaret Mead’s daughter, Mary Catherine Bateson. I just reread Bateson’s book, and her point about the trajectory of women’s lives is powerful today. Bateson emphasized that women’s lives–marked by caretaking– so often veer from the paths we may intend them to take. This is a wonderful thing, but we’re not taught to think of it that way. Bateson writes of the huge creative potential of a life that twists and turns, and is not “pointed towards a single ambition.” These are not lives without commitment, “but rather lives in which commitment is continually refocused and redefined.”


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