Saturday, March 03, 2007


In high school, sitting up alone in my attic room, I said I wanted to be a writer.

I liked books. Words, the right ones, moved me more than anything else in the world. In other people’s words I found a confirmation of my own inner reality. I didn’t find it anywhere else. For me, only writers knew how to communicate what being alive really felt like and I thought the greatest thing possible was to put into words what was otherwise never talked about. I wanted to do it.

I thought I would sit at a desk somewhere and do it. And as I dreamed in my attic I imagined myself being good at it, that I'd like what I wrote and other people would too.

"You don't make the art you want," writes the painter, Odile Redon.

Now I really am a writer and it is not like this at all. It means becoming completely vulnerable. It means reaching into my inner world much more deeply than I was prepared for. It’s not fun. I can easily imagine a life not doing it. I could go get a job, bring home a check, become one of those people who pays her bills and lives in a moderate way. But I have done that. For years I did that and I was bitterly miserable. I thought the misery was because I wasn’t writing, because I was stuck in a meaningless 9-5 job. But the misery came from somewhere else I am realizing now. Because I am not doing the 9-5 job anymore and, lo, I am often as miserable as I ever was. And as I write my way back into the past I had forgotten, I think perhaps I am uncovering the roots of that misery.

I can imagine stopping this process. Going out and getting that job. Putting aside my violin because it is so difficult to play even the simplest melody. I imagined doing these things just yesterday. And what came crashing in is how I’d feel a few years from now, a couple decades from now. I’d be wondering what I would have managed if I hadn’t given up these things, if I had kept writing, if I had kept up my violin. So I can’t stop writing or playing. They are such difficult things. I wish life was easier.

“The older you get the harder you work,” my father said the last time I saw him. I don’t know what he meant. I don’t go to my father for information anymore. But the phrase has stuck in my mind. Maybe because the more I write, the harder writing gets.

1 comment:

Chris Howard said...

This is a beautiful portrayal of the demon attacks that we are all subjected to at one time or another and the need to go on despite the doubt. It certainly doesn't get any easier.