My wife is an artist. She’s also a really good writer, but even in her most self-aware moments she won’t cop to it. But the thing is, the same is true for her art.
Writing gives her no pleasure. It’s work for her. She thinks what I do is… cool and inaccessible.
In contrast, her art is sweet morphine flowing through her gypsy soul. It comes naturally, it is who she is. And she is many things, many women, an enchantress of whimsy and a portal to the subtext of the world which finds expression through the images she creates.
She sees God in flowers and in the intricate mysteries of drying leaves. She immortalizes moments and merges the whimsical with vivid truths.
Writers do that, too.
I believe it is nearly impossible to be an artist – or a writer, for that matter – and claim to believe in nothing. My wife believes in a Creator and in life, and her art is her worship.
People look at her stuff and marvel. And yet, when we talk about art and artists, she feels separate and unworthy. Even though our walls attest to her gift, and her days are filled with the creation of beauty, expression and wonder.
She views life through the lens of an artist. Because she is one. Simply because she is immersed in the pursuit of its expression.
And she should be thankful.
Writers are similarly blessed.
I know many writers – they flock to workshops and conferences – who won’t cop to the nametag. As if there is some milestone, some mysterious criteria – like being published or having sat in front of agent pitching your humble stories – that puts space between those who tinker with writing and those who are unquestionably lost to it.
Screenwriter Larry Ferguson (The Hunt for Red October, Aliens, and other notable films) said it well, though I paraphrase here: A writer is someone who writes. Period. And if you are going to write, do it with passion and courage. It is a noble thing, and in any case, at any level, it’s always better than carrying a gun.
So give thanks today. Because you are a writer.
I’ve often said that writers are different.
Not better, certainly, as history and a good look around the writing conference room will attest. The ghost of Sylvia Plath still lingers at the bar.
But writers experience the world and themselves in a unique way. We look for meaning. We see it even when we are not paying attention, which is seldom because, as writers, paying attention is what we do. We are scribes to the ticking of the days, and we have a job to do. We are not at peace unless we are doing it.
We recognize irony, we look the abyss in the eye, and we pause to honor beauty, while others are fighting to change lanes or raising a glass to… nothing at all.
We go on amazing adventures. We encounter great heroes and disturbing villains. We fall in love, over and over, and our broken hearts heal in our next story.
We remember with a vividness that challenges the laws of time itself.
Along the way, we encounter and embrace our truth.
We have a free pass into darkness, and when we return, we celebrate the sunshine.
This is a wonder available to all, but known by few. If you are reading this, then you are a writer, simply by paying attention. You are already nodding.
Our burden – which in our weaker moments (of which we have many) is how we view it – this burning need to explore life in words is misunderstood and elusive, even to us. And yet, who among us does not look upon someone who writes in a journal every night and not see someone special there, someone who is, at least in one aspect, alive like we are.
Writers get to embrace the double negative and skip the question mark when the inquiry is rhetorical.
Writers are blessed. Not cursed as some would believe.
And with great blessings come great responsibility (there’s a beer commercial out there that leverages this same thought, an example we writers are always humbled by banal reality), and ours is to write it down, make sense of the noise, to reach out and provoke and probe, to ask questions and venture answers.
To embrace life, wrestle it to the mat, submit to it and conquer it. To love it to death. To stretch limits, consider the unthinkable and the impossible. Allow fear and love and hope to ooze from our pores.
To hug the world.
All this, simply by applying butt to chair and allowing your mind to spill onto a blank screen or page, often with a drop of blood or two. When writing calls our name, we must answer before we find peace.
So give thanks today. You are a writer.
The bearer of a quiet mantle that cannot be taken from you, even in the face of life’s most challenging chapters. Which, no matter how it slams you, will end up on your page, battled and bruised and broken down into sensibility, because you are a worthy foe.
And in doing so, you will have conquered it.
You will spin it and apply meaning to it and then, no matter what happens to your work, bestow it upon the world.
You will throw it out there. At the end of the day this is all any writer can do.
Even a story that resides in a drawer has been given life, and thus has been released from the prison of the writer’s soul.
Writing is a great big shiny key that sets you free.
Writing is a worthy purpose. What you write is a gift you are giving back to the universe. If you don’t feel that to be the case, keep working on it until you do.
God, or whatever word you use in that context, loves nothing more than to see his children seek to understand.
And that, dear writer friends, is the essence of being alive, and on a level that few attain.
At least, until they pick up a pen.
Image credit: a painting by Laura Brooks. Used without the artist’s permission, because she’s downstairs preparing a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner and feels unworthy of the nametag of “artist.” As you can see, she is avoiding the obvious.