Daughter, I pray that you are a writer.
Posted on April 13, 2014
Daughter, I pray that you are a writer.
It is not because I want you to know the pain that so many writers carry with them, because I want your life to be painless. But life is not painless, and writers can make beautiful things out of the hurt we carry.
Here is what to do with pain: let it live with you a while, and feel every inch of it. Then, when you and your pain are ready, you find the words to name it. When you name it, you let it go.
Sweetheart, become a writer to have a place to turn when someone hurts you and you’re not ready to bring that pain to anyone else. I want you to have somewhere to put your broken heart so that you don’t go sticking it in the wrong places, breaking it further. When you write, you will be able to describe your pain and assign it meaning.
How to write through heartbreak: Write for yourself, no one else. Put it away and when you return to it in a year, or five years, you will see that you are not the same person you were when you were hurt.
Being a writer is not a good career strategy. In addition to balancing work and family, you must find space for a craft that requires time, attention, and practice. The discipline required for this will strengthen the rest of the things you do.
Here is how you balance your life and your writing: Listen to the wise words of Anne Lamott, who says that the way you do one thing is the way you do everything. To do a bit of everything, you must commit to it all. Nothing can be done halfway. Learn to be an excellent multi-tasker, and learn that writing can be squeezed into any space you have. Even in the busiest of lives, it can fit somewhere. I have written in the garage before carrying in the groceries, in chairs beside your dad’s Emergency Room beds, under a bridge in Sevilla, and in a single hotel room in Kolkata. Writing is a liquid–pour it out, and it will fill the cracks.
I pray you are a writer because I suspect there is no better way to move through this world than as one who sees it.
How to truly see the world: When you notice that everyone is looking one way, you look the other way to see what they’re missing. It’s as easy as that.
I want you to see things that other people don’t. A fleeting expression on someone else’s face that no one else notices. The connectedness between two ideas that everyone else thinks doesn’t exist. The way lightening bugs on light up on their ascents and never on the way down.
You are four years old, and you already recognize narrative and themes better than some of my undergraduate students. Last week, after seeing The Never-Ending Story for the first time, you told me that those giant turtles in the film, “are quite selfish.” The other day, you made up a story about Benji the Butterfly, our family’s little mascot, and it had a complete beginning, middle, and end. You use words like aggression and convincing and cooperating and fatuous. When you dragged your feet through the dust I was sweeping out of the garage a couple of weeks ago, you looked down and said, “My shoes are all dusty! This is a tragedy!” And then you laughed at your clever joke.
I hope you are a writer because I want you to have words for your memories. I’ve learned recently that children start losing their earliest memories once they reach five or six years old. If you a writer, perhaps you can hold on to those early memories–the things that you and I treasure together–and keep them longer than your peers.
What I want you to remember: Our snuggles every night before bed and most mornings before you get up. The way you charmed Snow White at Cinderella’s Castle and she took you on a tour of the whole place and introduced you to Gus and Jacques, the little mice on the wall in the lobby. The way powdered sugar puffs off of your favorite donuts when you put them in your mouth.
If you are a writer, you can escape loneliness through words. Your words and others’ words.
How to escape: Read everything. Read books and magazines and whatever people write online when you’re a grownup. Read things that are new, and literary, and old, and pop, and important, and insignificant, and true, and fiction.
I pray you are a writer for the richness of life that we writers feel. If you are not a writer, I will celebrate all the things you don’t have to suffer through, like rejection letters and writer’s block and awkward attempts at self-promotion and the inability to shake negative memories.
But if you are a writer? Honey, it’s a good world for us, and I’m happy to share this writers’ world with you.