Writerly friends, humor me! Keep writing, even if you don’t live to write.

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.

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8 comments on “Writerly friends, humor me! Keep writing, even if you don’t live to write.

  1. If you want to know someone, watch their lips move. If you want to understand them, read their words.

    • AMEN, Disseminated Thoughts– that’s the key. A blog subscription or a comment on anything I’ve written is the best affirmation. Whether the person is interested in my writing because they know me personally, or because they found my work and wanted to start a conversation about it with me. Either way, it electrifies me and I value that person for taking the time to acknowledge what I created– even if it’s constructive criticism. Even if they hate it! At least they’re saying, “I see you.”

  2. What an inspirational post! I’ve recently begun writing again, but without my closest friend’s knowledge. It’s a weird feeling and kind of scary. I love reading encouraging words like yours, it makes it worth it, even if we don’t know each other. 🙂

    • Lirpa, welcome back to the craft! Your comment encourages me to keep blogging– it *is* scary. But the best kind of scary, don’t ya think? You don’t have to tell your friends you’re writing– but I’ve seen your blog, and I hope in time you do share it with them. Because I really enjoy it, and I’m a total stranger. I can only imagine how much your friends would love to share that with you!!

  3. For years, I’ve heard all over to journal–get your ideas, feelings and fears out. It’s good for you. Blah. Blah. Blah. I’ve been against it as I feel never confess & leave no evidence to be two of the most important bits of advice ever. Say it, forget it, write it, regret it. What a bad attitude! You can imagine my surprise when I realized the little black book I’ve been writing in since 8th grade can be looked at as a journal. The teacher who assigned this task had us get a little binder and make different tabbed sections and write down observations, quotes, original poems, thoughts–anything that struck us. We then had various creative writing assignments to do using the entries in the book. What’s funny is, I kept up with the book all these years, sometimes writing more, sometimes less. When read in its entirety, as I almost always dated the entries, one can see how I was feeling emotionally at the different times in my life. So, even though, I was always so against writing a journal, I’ve been doing it all along! I, too, was encouraged to pursue writing by many of my teachers, I just didn’t believe I could be good enough to make a living off of something I enjoy so much. I really admire the fact you aren’t afraid of making your dreams come true!

    • Sheri, thanks for this wonderful meaty comment!! I understand– the physical act of writing something is a powerful ritual. Writing something down makes it *real.* THAT is what scares us from writing things down I think– moreso than the idea that someone may find it. Because if we wrote down a goal or promise to ourselves, we’ll be reminded if we fail. But it works both ways– seeing things that may be painful to read also reminds us of how far we’ve come– and points us where we need to go.

      Reading my journals over helps me to ” connect the dots,” when I’m feeling stuck. I realize there’s a pattern to how I’ve feeling, and sometimes I get brave and change.

      It sounds like you had an excellent teacher! I like the idea of writing quotes– I scribble them down all the time. That book is obviously a treasure of your life, I’m so glad you’ve kept it and continue to write in it. You don’t have to think of your little black book as a journal– it doesn’t matter what you call it. It’s your record, your vault, your triumphs!

      Write for yourself, Sheri, even if you never show it to anyone else. We don’t always have to publish it for it to be real and important– but you may find that one day, braving submission may be fun.

      And thanks for the admiration, but I’m terrified of making my dreams come true! HA! I vacillate about it all the time. Do I want to really MAKE IT as a writer, or just be a regular person who happens to write? I’m not sure. And for now, that’s okay.

      But your comments inspire me, while I’m figuring it out in the meantime! 😉

  4. You make my dreams come true, . . .It is nice to run into someone and realize, right off the bat, that we are alike. Writing, I suppose is like sports, without the huge fan base and painted beer bellies. There are the pros and the amateurs, and we like to sit around and discuss who we think sucks, I’m looking at you Mrs. Myers, and who rocks, I’d have JK Rowling sign a body part if I didn’t have a piece of paper.
    But like sports, writing doesn’t send us all off into the big league. Maybe we just end up doing it occasionally at the park with a few friends, or maybe we just do it after thanksgiving dinner. Or maybe we just like to play the sidelines and read. Regardless, we can choose to treat writing like a career or like a hobby, it takes hours of practice to make a career in football, baseball, soccer, as it does in writing.

    • Dot, you make me blush! You are one of my favorite writerly friends, even if one of my newest. It was wonderful indeed when we met! We both love fiction and writing– and met because of those mutual interests.

      Writing is like sports– and luckily, we root for some of the same teams! We’re both anti- Twilight, and pro good writing!

      And you’re also right that we don’t usually get drafted to the pros. I think most of us are just too chicken to even look up where the try-outs are, even if we are good enough. But you sent your story to the New Yorker– you’re not afraid to get out there. And if you keep submitting, and you decide you want to play in the big leagues– I believe you will.

      And if you choose instead to do it as a hobby, with our writers’ group, or after Turkey Day dinner, than that’s okay too!

      Every time you read something to me, I want to go write something. Your passion to write inspires me to keep working on making MY dream come true.

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