Know Your Pedestal
Many beginning writers go to writer’s conferences or take writing classes under the practical guise of answering the question how do I write a book or how do I get a book published. These are perfectly reasonable questions, but not, I believe, the real question these writers are trying to answer, which is, “Can I actually write and publish a book?” After all, nearly every writer begins as a devoted reader, and reading is a uniquely intimate and strangely holy experience. The writer enters into creative collusion with the reader, offering the first and most compelling details of a story the reader must then complete with his or her own imagination. A reader may say she is reading to “escape from life,” but in fact she is only reading to escape from the fear of life. All books, all writing, all works of art, whether they are poems or mysteries or romance novels, serve the exact same purpose: to remind us, writer and reader alike, why life is good and interesting and valuable and unquestionably worth living.
No wonder then that we have a habit of putting these men and women called writers on pedestals – on daises even. What could be more generous, more profound, more holy than reminding us why the life we lead is worth living? And who of us was ever born on a dais? Are we not, every one of us, scrambling around in the pews, bumping into one another, coughing and yawning and needing to use the bathroom? How ordinary; how un-special.
Writers are, in fact, special people. Except the only thing special about writers is that they love to write. That is a writer’s gift. Meanwhile, you already know life is worth living because you are living it. You may have forgotten, but that is very different than not knowing. If you are a writer, write to remember what you know, and the moment what you have asked for returns you will discover that Shakespeare’s pedestal was on loan from you.
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