windyroad.jpg

My Writing Life

 

My Writing Life

When I was twenty years old I fell in love with the work of Raymond Carver. I found out everything I could about him and then I came across this passage of his, which he wrote in the introduction to Best American Short Stories 1984:

Writers write, and they write, and they go on writing, in some cases long after wisdom and even common sense have told them to quit. There are always plenty of reasons—good compelling reasons too—for quitting, or for not writing very much or very seriously. (Writing is trouble, make no mistake, for everyone involved, and who needs trouble?) But once in a great while lightning strikes, and occasionally it strikes early in the writer's life. Sometimes it comes later, after years of work. And sometimes, most often, of course, it never happens at all. Strangely, it seems, it may hit people whose work you can't abide, an event that, when it occurs, causes you to feel there's no justice whatsoever in the world. (There isn't, more often than not.) It may hit the man or woman who is or was your friend, the one who drank too much, or not at all, who went off with someone's wife, or husband, or sister, after a party you attended together. The young writer who sat in the back of the class and never had anything to say about anything. The dunce, you thought. The writer who couldn't, not in one's wildest imaginings, make anyone's list of top ten possibilities. It happens sometimes. The dark horse. It happens, lightning, or it doesn’t happen. (Naturally, it's more fun when it does happen.) But it will never, never happen to those who don't work hard at it and who don't consider the act of writing as very nearly the most important thing in their lives, right up there next to breath, and food, and shelter, and love, and God. 

I had, more or less, already committed myself to a life of writing then. And even armed with Carver's quote, his sound advice, I haven't stopped. I should have, I think, sometimes. It would have made life so much easier but I'm not sure that means more enjoyable or more interesting. Annie Dillard says, We are, after all, how we spend our days. I am a frustrated and slow writer, but every so often, the match flame blooms on first strike and I believe I can build a fire.