I’m blessed to have several writerly friends, who relish language and love talking books. They are always game to go to The Green Mill for the Sunday night slam in Chicago. They have favorite poets, and preferred genres of literature. We trade books like young boys trade baseball cards.
But let’s face it, writing for a living is not feasible for most of us. And while some of us (me!) have almost all of our intelligence concentrated in linguistics, others are gifted with multiple talents which are equally marketable and more lucrative. I can barely do basic math, but my vocab, grammar, reading comprehension and composition skills are outstanding. Writing is also my personal solace, and creative center.
Writing is an excruciating sacrifice for those who abandon their lives to it. Every letter robs us of social interaction. Composition and editing steal us from our loved ones, distracts us from our jobs, and renders us absentminded until we’re satisfied. The validation of achieving any measure of success for these efforts is better than a conversation with another person.
Since starting this blog, joining a writer’s group and landing my column I’ve grown to realize that for me, writing is oxygen. I need it to survive. I don’t know if I’ll ever do it for a living, because my best writing is about myself– and I just am not ready to surrender my life entirely to my art. Talent is a burden as well a gift.
Some of my friends have pursued other passions, which have afforded them burgeoning careers and deep personal satisfaction. They enjoy these things more than they do writing, even though the work they produce as writers is excellent.
But I wonder, do they forget what it feels like to write something incredible? Do they avoid that part of themselves because not opening it it at all is just easier than admitting how much they miss it?
I’m happy these friends have other options for creative outlets and professional success. But it makes me sad when some of these remarkable writers seem to quit writing just because they feel pressured to “do something with it,” and don’t have the ambition. It’s as if they forget that writing doesn’t have to be about publishing. Writing can be about self-discovery, about stress relief, about connecting with your inner circle.
You can write letters. Poems on a napkins on your break at work. Scribble when there’s no pretense that you’re getting to sleep soon.
I wish these friends of mine wouldn’t forget about their talent, just because they haven’t chosen a writing life professionally. Perhaps it’s just that I’m selfish. I still have the poems and short stories they gifted me years ago, back when we printed out our work. They handed me precious bundles of their words, paper-clipped together– and I learned so much about my friends by the narrative voices they chose, the characters they brought to life, the structure of their poems. The literary devices and plots they concocted in their fiction.
I miss having access to that extra layer of my friends. I lived to share personal writing that was merely an extension of our lives– some things so personal we’d never dream of trying to publish them.
I miss the days when I made time for that kind of writing.
Here’s hoping that some of those writerly friends of mine will pick up a pen, if only to humor me.