A Prince's Work

When I was a boy the job I wanted most when I grew up was the Prince in Sleeping Beauty. The Prince was noble and true and honest and strong, and all that he did – every tower he climbed and every dragon he slew – was done for love. Motivation, it seemed to me, was keenly important for our life’s work, and love, which could not be traded, or compared, or placed on a shelf, or secured in a vault, stood out among all earthly goals for its unassailable honesty. It had no value to anyone else, and yet my prize in this contest might be the only thing I carry with me past the grave. Plus, I found the notion of saving the woman I loved overwhelmingly romantic. This had nothing to do with the idea that women couldn’t save themselves, but a feeling that the world was unnecessarily brutal, and that women had absolutely nothing to gain by entering this fray. She – Beauty – would be my perfect excuse to escape to a castle beyond the battle, a land whose tranquility I had glimpsed in myself when I had beheld, even in passing, a face in the window or across the classroom.

Writing is a good antidote for the illusions of a noble warrior like me. Warriors like to believe their actions will save the day, but a writer can hardly mistake his work for anything like action. My time at the desk is a discipline of perception, with a little translation thrown in at the end. Nothing I have ever done has saved me or anyone from a moment of suffering. However, a shift in perception lifts the veil in whose mesh we might strangle ourselves if given enough opportunity.

I will always stand with the crowd and applaud those who risk their lives to save another, who rush into the burning building or the sinking car. Yet to be pulled from a fire is to be returned to a world in which suffering is never more than one unhappy story away. No hero’s sword can slay such a foe. That said, I still consider love – and its physical mirror, beauty – the only worthy motivation in life. But whereas once I would try to save it, now I spend my days remembering to see it.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.inddWrite Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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