Jenna St. Hilaire is off in the wilderness picking huckleberries. I’m safe at home cooking haggis.
That might not be very safe. But it illustrates a point I’ve made before and will make again: contrary to popular lives, writers are boring (Neil Gaiman notwithstanding). Why there’s such an insistence to write our biographies—well, not mine personally, but—I really don’t know.
Oh, there’s nothing wrong with huckleberries, just as (I would insist) there’s nothing wrong with haggis. Jenna and I have both embarked on adventures of sorts. But they’re solid, comfortable, happily hobbitish adventures. Not really the dramatic exploits of artists whose words shake the world and plumb the depths of the human soul, if you’ll forgive me some hyperbole.
We don’t often like to admit that writers are just ordinary people who happen to geek out about books and words, and think a lot about stuff, and who write.
And that it’s beautiful.
Does our art matter, Jenna demands? Does the mass of words and edits and tears and sentences and tears and reviews and words and tears we call ‘writing a book’ really matter anything?
Short answer: yes. Long answer:
The hard-to-find book that I read to pieces in high school–that matters. You, with your blog or your story or your how-to book or your long-thought-through comment or greeting card or letter—whatever it was that reason/passion/faith/desperation/hope/understanding/love drove you to write—that matters. If it helped you, if it encouraged or assisted someone else—success can be great or small, admittedly, but it is still success.
It matters, Jenna says, because we are us. To put it another way, it’s because of being we. I am not Thou, and Thou not I, yet we are I and Thou. What we do matters because we’re ourselves, and because we’re each other.
The impetus to create is precious and powerful. The act of creation is sacred. There’s a unique spiritual thread here, really. The act of creation—what I am doing here pecking alternately pecking at a keyboard and fretting over the haggis—is, frankly, mundane. And yet it touches for a moment the shores of that sacred place, catching the hallowed scent of imagination and wonder.
We’re looking through other mirrors when we write. We’re touching other worlds (and that regardless of genre). And there we find each other, the sudden laugh of recognition, ‘Oh, you’ve seen it too?’
I think a book or a poem or a song or a painting or a dance—any art form really—is one that suddenly helps us realize what it is we see. One that opens our gaze to depths and worlds we’d not noticed. What we do—what each of us does—matters, because we each see different things and tell different travelers’ tales. Our writing matters—simply and utterly—because we matter.
This is harder to accept that it might seen at first. We’re not often comfortable with being ourselves, having our own struggles and doubts and questions, rejecting the hurt and evil we find in ourselves and reaching relentlessly towards the healing, the good. I’ll be the first to admit that not everyone has stopped to think about writing this way, not everyone writes like this.
But anyone can.