I have a confession to make. It is true that I am the Editor-in-Chief of a magazine for writers about writing. It is also true that this magazine is funded by the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, which, in addition to supporting writers, puts on a humdinger of a writing conference every summer. What’s more, it is also true that I write a column five days-a-week more or less about writing and the writing life, and that I interview four to five writers every month about writing and now talk to one writer every week on an internet radio program. It is fair to say I surround my day in writing. Why, I even wrote a memoir about my relationship with my son that dealt in large part with – you guessed it – writing.
And yet the truth remains that I don’t do all of this because I am interested in writing. The truth remains that I am not actually interested in writing. The only thing I am interested in is life. Life is forever interesting, and I never tire of talking about it, writing about, reading about it and, on most days, living it. I can talk about just writing, about the nuts and bolts and craft of writing – but often when I do I end up feeling like I am stuck in one of those conversations I used to get into with my Dungeons & Dragons friends when I was a teenager, conversations in which we would argue over whether the fireball spell was better than the lightning bolt spell.
I love writing, however, because to this day it remains my greatest teacher. To this day, it remains my portal of choice through which to understand life. Everything is a portal, of course. Once upon a time, Dungeons & Dragons was a portal. It honestly was. Playing football was a portal also, as was running high hurdles and waiting tables and tasting wine.
But writing came to me very early and very clearly and has stayed with me all these years for a good reason. The blank page is a teacher like none other I have ever or will ever meet. I had a flute teacher who felt that Mozart was particularly challenging to play because there was no place to hide in his melodies. I feel precisely this way about writing. To write I must come forward, to write I must be present, and when writing I have no one else to blame, and every word is a choice.
Someday I may live a Sunday like my best hour of writing. Until then I will continue practicing with my favorite teacher, a teacher so ruthlessly compassionate that he offers me neither praise nor criticism, but only another blank page to fill.
If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.