I want to learn all I can, live as wisely as I can, and savor every moment on the journey.
I’ve had some ground-breaking insights lately about my life as a writer, largely through the influence of a book I just read—My Reading Life by Pat Conroy. This book has changed my life! This book isn’t didactic; it’s just that because I am a lot like Mr. Conroy in personality, watching him be his true self has helped me feel freer to truly be myself.
And who I am is—a writer. Yes, I call myself as a writer, even though I haven’t yet written a book or been published. Even if I never do, I’ll be a writer; it’s my nature and identity. I can’t not write.
So here’s the thing that’s new: I am finally making my own thoughts and feelings important to me. If they’re not important enough to me to let them out, they’ll never have a chance of being important to anyone else…and writing words that matter is my dream.
This perspective also influences my reading. In the past, I’ve tended to hold all authors in awe, reading their words as authoritative and above my own thoughts. But no more! There are still many authors whose feet I would willingly kiss—most of them are dead, of course—but now there are plenty more whom I’d give only a handshake. From now on, I will continue to read all I can, but I will have a new standard of evaluation for the books I read: I seek books that move me–that change me—that light my soul on fire.
And no more feeling like I’m not good enough a writer, because it’s not about being good enough. It’s about being great–writing literature that moves people and fuels their imagination and feeds their souls. That’s my dream.
(If my goal were merely to get published, then being good enough would be the right goal. But in today’s world of self-publishing and general information overload, being published isn’t a huge deal anyway. It helps that I have a day job as a source of income; otherwise I would be scurrying to be good enough—and I tried that for a while, thinking of doing freelancing and such—but that turned out to be too much strain.)
So this is my declaration: No more apologizing, ever, for what I think, how I feel, what I like, or who I am. Rather, I will kindle my personal fires more and more so they blaze hot and powerful, and I will write honestly, with all the passion and feeling genuinely inside me. Wishy-washy words will never move mountains or change lives. Only fiery ones will…
…But not the kind of fiery words that breathe scary flames of angry, prejudiced, fear-and-ignorance-based rants. No—that kind of fire is only destructive.
The kind of word-fires I want to create are survival gifts—energy-producing flames that can be harnessed and used as fuel—fires that warm and give light—fires that draw eyes in reflective calm—fires that feed—fires that cleanse—fires that give life.
And I know the writers who have made these life-giving fires before—they are the great storytellers, poets, and thinkers whose words move me deeply. Critics can never take away the power of these writers’ words. I will never apologize for loving them—rather, I will embrace them. Victor Hugo. Charles Dickens. Jane Austen. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Virginia Woolf. George Eliot. J.R.R. Tolkein. Emily Dickinson. E.A. Robinson. Frost. Tennyson. Longfellow. Tolstoy. Shakespeare. These are my heroes, my teachers, my cloud of witnesses.