Why do we write? It’s an age-old question, but I found a good answer recently. “The purpose of being a serious writer is to keep people from despair,” says Sarah Manguso. “If people read your work and, as a result, choose life, then you are doing your job.”
When you think of it, whether reading for entertainment or inspiration, we want to feel a little better when we’re finished. We don’t want to feel like a swarm of alligators has just dragged us into murky waters where we can’t breathe.
Curious about these thoughts, I took this idea to my women’s writing circles and asked how their writing helped readers “choose life.” The answers tumbled out. I help them see a new perspective on the other side of what they are dealing with, said one. I want readers to realize they are not alone. I hope they feel they are laughing and crying with someone. My writing empowers them. It gives them a companion on their path through challenges. It helps them accept exactly where they are. I make them laugh and lighten up.
Then, I asked a question that had people stumped. These life affirming words did not come out of thin air, I said. Who did YOU have to become in order to write these words?
I mean, I continued, trying to articulate the thought, you could not have written your memoirs, books or blogs just this way twenty years ago. Maybe even one year ago. Who have you had to become in order to write words like these?
One woman tried. I’ve had to become someone who is disciplined, so I can sit down and write regularly. A good start. I pushed deeper.
For instance, I continued, to write MY words I’ve had to become a person who listens deeply to hear what’s below the surface; who meditates to hear my innermost workings; who (mostly) accepts herself so I can therefore accept others; who trusts something bigger than me; who follows her curiosity to uncover what’s just out of sight. Another chimed in “If I wasn’t curious, the extraordinary would not be available.” Exactly.
We sit sometimes in our own little bubbles, writing (or painting, making music, etc.) without appreciating the one who created it. We underestimate the hours and years we’ve spent becoming the person who inspires action, affirms worth or unleashes possibilities in others.
It’s time we take stock. Take a bow. I have a feeling that you’ve had to go through some hard things and come out the other side to write your heart-felt thoughts. You’ve had to find your courage. Perhaps take a path less traveled. You’ve had to choose life – for yourself and for us.
How does your writing (or painting or other creative expression) help others affirm life? What have YOU had to become to express in the way you do? Let me know on the comments section at the bottom of this page.
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Spring Retreat in Taos: Greening the Creative Spirit
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: ONE SPOT HAS OPENED!
Mabel Dodge Luhan House
April 5 to 10, 2020
with Carolyn Scarborough and Sharon Zeugin
Unwind underneath the big skies and tap into your most alive, inspired and creative self at this special retreat in New Mexico. We will stay in the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, a rambling hacienda nestled between an Indian pueblo and the artsy village of Taos. Whether you are interested in art, writing, or inspiration in general, we invite you to join us. Nothing is needed but a desire to tap into your creative soul. The retreat has been sold out for months, but one spot has just opened. If you are interested, go HERE.