It’s funny how things work out. You pick up a book in a bookstore or a friend presses you to read something, “Hey, I KNOW you’ll love this.”
You read the words on the page and suddenly you’re soaring above your bedroom ceiling, your sorryass childhood forgotten, your past mistakes and your current cares evaporate, like rain splashing on a steaming hot summer sidewalk.
You learn about a larger world when writers release their words into the Universe. As I think of authors letting go of their words, I envision an endless field of dandelions, as far as the horizon. When the wind whips through the field, each fuzzy parachute bursts into the air, carrying nourishment for the tiny seeds.
I’ve always hungered for the written word, in the same way I hunger for food at certain times of the day and night.
That’s how I became a writer, actually. Being nourished by tiny seeds, in the form of words and books. I still feel a bit odd saying, “Oh, I am a writer,” like it’s something frivolous (and that’s one reason I never gave myself permission to do it on a regular basis).
Like delighting in a good wine, some writing encourages a slowing down, taking slow sips, musing on the experience, reveling in combinations of words and mental flavors. Of course, writing – when it’s good – and not just writing about food – will do that for you. Good writing creates balance.
It all began many years ago, you see, even before I discovered the works of M. F. K. Fisher,* this desire of mine to share something with the world by writing about it. But it took Fisher’s crisp, clean, and – yes – romantic writing to spur me to REALLY write, not just the sporadic piece when the Muse struck. Which wasn’t often.
I read every one of Fisher’s books. Her work ultimately deals with the hungers you and I face as we make our way through the messiness and joys of life. And she, more than anything else – other than a bout with a life-threatening illness – forced me to step out of yearning into doing.
Which, for me, took the form of trying to express something on paper (even if it took the torturous route from keyboard to screen to file to printer, the words still ended up on paper.)
Lately, after several years of writing, striving to become better at this craft, I’ve realized a few things about the writing life, about which many writers far better and more successful than I will ever be have also weighed in.
First of all, it’s so easy to get caught up in the rat race, even if your commute demands no more than ten minutes, from bed to closet to desk. Facebook, Twitter, whatever, all filled with gloatings and crowings. People block other people because of perceived slights that never happened, except in their over-caffeinated minds.
And then there are conferences, where you cannot wear your bathrobe and must actually try to pull together a suit of clothes that your mother would approve of, where everybody eyes name tags with networking in mind and scurries about like ants after their hill’s been kicked by an enraged bull.
Finally, and this is the worst, for creativity dies when strapped into the strait-jacket of the brand, the platform: “What’s your brand, what’s your platform?” Somebody once asked me that, suggesting rather snidely that I didn’t have one.
Well, that’s OK. I’m just a writer who finds the whole world full of so many things I don’t know, but I certainly am going to find out, you can be sure of that.
Let’s end with an apropos quote from Henry Miller: “I was and still am interested in everything.”**
*Look over this list of M. F. K. Fisher’s books and, if you’ve got a free moment or two this week, indulge yourself. You’ll understand just how it’s possible to become a writer. Fisher wrote mostly about food, but she did not like to be called a food writer. And I don’t blame her; her work goes far beyond the formulaic writing of the so-called women’s pages, which still often appears with a gushing description of a recipe.
(Bibliography listed in Wikipedia entry on M.F.K. Fisher)
**Miller, Henry. Henry Miller on Writing, p. 126.
© 2012 C. Bertelsen