I have a student who is an excellent writer, a true memoirist. She has a book in her if anyone does. In fact, she’s already written it. She’s worked on a manuscript for years and finally had one ready to go to an agent. Her life had not been easy and her memoir reflects this, but recently things took a turn. She experienced some pleasant surprises. She made some happy changes. And, suddenly she isn’t writing anymore. She is living, and she doesn’t seem at all inclined to revisit the painful experiences of the past. Her writing in many ways was cathartic for her, a healing process. But now, she doesn’t need to heal. She doesn’t need to analyze, reflect, put things in perspective, or even share. She is busy living. I encourage her – so much of her life was on hold for so very long – it is not a time to sit isolated at a desk, behind a computer. It is a time to laugh with a lover, to build a strong foundation, not a story structure.
There is a belief that writers have to write. They cannot help themselves. Writing for me has always been my way of sharing my perspective on the universe. From the time I was a little girl, I remember wanting to write. I have not, however, always felt compelled to do so. Some days I can take it or leave it. Does that make me less a writer? Maybe, but perhaps it makes me a better person. I put my pen and pad of paper down and tote a carload of seventeen-year-old boys to an action film. I drive my 92 year-old grandmother to the doctor. I witness my seventeen-month-old niece see her first dinosaur exhibit. Sometimes I pick the pen back up and share what I’ve learned from these experiences. Sometimes there isn’t time before the sun sets and rises and the day begins again.
There is another belief that to be a writer you need to be selfish – to guard and honor the work above all else. Good writing is honest writing, but in the end, I think, people are more important. And, so I tell my student not to worry, the book will happen or it won’t. Go live and embrace all that you find! Writing is a creative act. It gives birth to worlds and reinvents them, but it plays second fiddle to love. The Bible says, “In the beginning was the word…” but it also notes that in the end it is love that remains. Love may be revealed on the page, but it is discovered in relationships. Words have a life of their own, but they are not my life. I write to share what I think and feel and learn. I live so the words aren’t empty.