Why is writing worth your time, you ask?
I feel this question well up within me a least a few times a week. Like today, it's grey and chilly and I want to drink tea, not head to the library and think about how we conceptualize perpetrators. I made a deal with myself, other things until 1pm then by 2pm butt in chair at the library and no wifi.
That discipline gets me writing, but I want to go deeper in this blog to consider why we should bother writing at all.
Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Dillard encourages writers to write as if they are terminally ill and if their audiences are too. This will help us cut through the trivialities, she says.
Ultimately, she's right...we are all terminally ill. We will all probably paradoxically sooner and later than we think.
Yesterday, I caught a glimpse of that movie "The Fault in Our Stars" -- a love story about two extraordinary young people dying of cancer. I expected a blockbuster tearjerker -- beautiful people living out beautiful tragedies. What I did not expect to shift my own orientation.
There's a lovely scene with the two main characters talking about the importance (or not) of being remembered. They discuss whether being famous or written in a history book is really more important than being loved deeply and known deeply by just a few other people.
In an era of 1000 "likes" and social media popularity, the discussion felt like that cold bucket of ice water used in the ALS challenge. Of course!! That's right, being known and loving deeply enriches our human experience the way no popularity ever will.
So then why write? Why not simply stay in bed and cuddle with your partner? Well maybe you should and maybe calling your mom is more important that finishing chapter two.
As the same time, if you write at all, you are one who also often feels that tugging. I feel it every day, like a stomach grumble....I feel pushed and pulled, uneasy until I have written something, anything each day.
Anne Lamott, hysterically funny author, talks about her realization that she could either write or kill herself. While I don't think I would kill myself, I'm not sure I can really live a full life without writing.
This past month, I was convinced at yet another level that writing matters. That we must take the time to think through the thought nuggets that drift in and out. When we find ourselves enraged by some injustice, the power of our voice does add to the chorus...writing does matter.
Martin Luther King Jr. reminded me of this last week. It's like he rose up from the earth with that booming voice to deliver a message that would echo in our ears for generations...
He had to speak quickly and powerfully-- he had less time than I to get his work done. He was terminally ill and did not know it, his "illness" was that he was healthier than the world in which he found himself and this would eventually kill him.
Look at this sentence!! -- I feel his words enter me, calling out our better selves and our better nation...
"Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty."
Write now, write often, say it....let your words echo...
Sarah Federman, PhD