What Was Never Lost

A great many novels deal with the theme of loss. I cannot count the number of stories I have read or read about where a parent loses a child, or a husband loses a wife, or a daughter loses a father. This is not surprising. Seen from a certain perspective, life is an endless series of losses, from your first hamster to your last day. Yet loss is always a red herring. You cannot lose anything you do not have—and you never actually have another person—nor can anything be taken from you that you do not give away. When I was a boy, I lost much of the connection to what I loved about telling stories when certain people informed me that I wasn’t a “good writer.” I felt ashamed and was determined to become a good writer, whatever that meant, so that I would never feel that shame again.

On the one hand, I developed an obsession with language and sentences and what is effective and what is not, and, being bright and hard working, became, in the technical sense of the word, a good writer. Unfortunately, I often felt lost and unhappy with what I was writing because I had forgotten why I wanted to write in the first place. If writing is not in service to something you want to share, it is nothing, and you end up performing a series of meaningless linguistic back-flips hoping, at the very least, for a smattering of applause.

The beauty of it all, of course, is that those people who told me I was a bad writer did not take all the stories I wanted to tell away from me. Nor did they want to. In their own clumsy way, they were encouraging me to help them see what I so wanted to share. And so the stories that I could not hear because I was so busy listening to my sentences for the slightest fault remained only a silent moment away. And perhaps these stories are better now anyway for the suffering I endured at my own hands all those years. Better to have endings where the hero finds his own way, and sees that love can never be lost, and knows that there is no nobility in sorrow.

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