I was shocked at the response to my last blog. So many people wrote to tell me that they related- that they had the kind of unsupportive families that might qualify them for an ABC Afterschool Special. And yet, they kept writing, whole-heartedly embracing my "Screw 'em, do it anyway," mentality. A few wrote to share just how supportive spouses, friends, etc. actually were, to the point that these writers don't feel they could make it without them. Like most things in life, I suspect the vast majority of us fall somewhere in the middle. But one common sentiment arose again and again:
Follow your dreams. Don't let anyone stand in the way of your dreams. Cherish your dream. Your dreams are a vital part of your happiness.
Here's a closely guarded personal truth: Writing is not a dream. Not for me. Never has been. And believe me, I wish it was.
For me, writing is a way of navigating the world, of trying to make peace with it, to make sense of my place in it, and to translate that experience into something that lets me be a happy and productive member of the human race. It's exhilarating and painful and lonely and hard.
But it's also beautiful. And completely, totally mandatory.
The truth is, for many of us, writing is not a choice. We have to do it, or we sicken, slow down, and sometimes outright break down. I don't know why this is. I suspect the reasons are different for everyone. I know I can look back through the course of my life and identify the times when I was the most miserable, and every single one of them has to do with me choosing to not write in favor of something more grown-up, or practical, or some other such line.
That's as far from a "dream" as I can imagine. Gwendolyn Brooks deconstucts the word so beautifully in "Kitchenette Building*": "Dream makes a giddy sound, not strong like 'rent,' 'feeding a wife,' 'satisfying a man.'" It is a word loaded with privilege and frivolity, and I believe it can be yet another way society devalues what writers, or any creative person, does.
This is the part where I'm supposed to tell you that, as caring humans, we must have priorities. We must put the college fund and the mortgage first. Many of us do this, and maybe this is the way it's supposed to be. But some of us can't. Some of us have to plod onward and hope everything will come out balanced in the end.
By no means do I intend to imply that creative expression shouldn't be an intimate, beautiful, cherished thing. And whether that is a dream or a compulsion, I'm wary of those who try to devalue it in any way.
*Brooks, Gwendolyn. "Kitchenette Building." Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Web. 02 June 2014.