These past weeks it seems my flesh has been cut away from my bones and there’s very little left of me. The worst part is I’m the one holding the knife.
Instead of feeding my writing, refilling my store of creative energy, I’ve given it all away. You know how it is, there are many demands on our time. The more I try to do, the more I want to do. Truly. But I can no longer allow it to be at the expense of my writing.
I met Ann Patchett a few months ago and she talked about this very subject. When she was asked to be the guest editor for Best American Short Stories, she said she hesitated. Ann said she turned down most requests associated with the writer’s life; she had learned to guard against such intrusions. At the time, and until this week, I couldn’t imagine such a thing.
Oh, to be asked! To be invited to sit on a panel at a writers’ conference and talk about craft with a room filled with others who share the same passion; to be asked to read another’s work and line the dust jacket with compliments; to have bestowed a title of any literary sort, honorary editor, guest judge, keynote speaker. An author could fill a calendar year with such obligations.
But really, those are simply the trappings of the writer’s life. A little bit and we grow dizzy with the fevered pitch, the glory. It’s good to feel appreciated, to give back even. Too much of this life though, and we succumb to the insatiable flesh eating vanity that could devour our work.
I’m not such a writer as Ann Patchett. I am, however, a mother, wife, daughter, friend, employee, volunteer with just as many demands on my time. Now it’s time to learn the power of no. In a way, I’m grateful to have learned this lesson now. It’s my lifelong goal to become an author, to write something honest and true. More than awards, more than bestseller lists and lunches in New York, I want to write something that makes a reader say, yes. In order to do that, I need to be as protective of my writing as I am of my children. After all, my babies are never made to go hungry.
How do you do it?
Tuesday, February 20, 2007