It’s also inspired a few thoughts on writing process.
First, sometimes you need some help. A year or so ago, I attended a wonderful writing retreat at Vermont College of Fine Arts. I got some feedback on my writing about getting married after the age of 49 (for the first time)–to whit, that I needed to take my subject more seriously. I hadn’t realized that I had been trivializing my own subject matter in the back of my head. Who could write seriously about mid-life marriage? Or about marriage at all? Of course, I know that people have and do, but there was still something of the Ladies Home Journal hanging over the idea. Since then, I have been working to deepen my approach and to extend it to my larger family history. This piece is part of that work.
Some of this material has had previous rough-draft runs on this blog, where facts have been questioned by some of my (family) readers. That’s been one of the great things about trying to blog less than superficially–to at least make some stab at literariness even in the genre known for skimming and ranting. No evaluations there, just a nod to my brother’s wisdom when he told me I should think of everything on my blog as a rough draft. Hard for me to allow everyone to see, but useful nonetheless.
Even though I have been away in textbook-writing land, I also find it still important to make my own creative forays. The textbook has been demanding in a whole different way, and I find that my sanity still depends on my connection to word, image, and narrative. I find that there’s a lot of posturing about the mysteries of being a writer, but one thing I do believe is that writers write more than they promote themselves, more than they pontificate about writing, more than they adopt the pose. That doesn’t mean that every writer writes every day (that’s another pose, though it’s great if you can manage it). And it doesn’t mean that every writer writes for fame or publication (though every writer perhaps wants them at least a little bit). It just means we write–to make sense of our world, to make sense of ourselves, to make sense of others. To us there’s no other way.