Monday, June 4, 2018

'This Is How It Is With Me' Along the Writer's Way

This is how it is with me. My grandparents’ house in Germantown is a shadow of its former stately self. I drive past it after attending a writer's meeting in that part of Philadelphia. Boarded windows and unpainted cornices speak of a world as faded as the velvet roses my crazy aunt once pinned to her silk dress. My parents married in June in the garden of that house—a carefully-tended montage of phlox, hydrangeas and rhododendron, now lost to weeds, an old tire and a pinwheel. There's a price to pay for a field trip down memory lane.

This is how it is with me.
I want to write, I will write. Not tomorrow or the next day, but today. If I don’t want to write, I won’t. People can find any excuse from the lawn needs mowing to the lampshade needs replacing not to sit down and write. If you don’t want to write, stop calling yourself a writer.

This is how it is with me. I’ve become one of those old ladies talking to her dog. I take morning coffee on the front porch, Lily by my side. We watch the SUVs roar up the street, people on their way to work. I drink more coffee, read a book, type a blog post, work on the novel. Not a bad life.

This is how it is with me. This past week I met another writer for coffee—although it has been so hot and muggy we sipped something called passion tea with a splash of lemonade—and talked. What is meaningful to me has little or no monetary value in the culture in which we live, she said. I agree.

This is how it is with me. Writing is totally undervalued in our society and unless you’re Virginia Woolf (which is money and a room of your own) you can’t afford to write, or pursue your passion, or explore what theologians and psychologists call your “authentic self.” I'm one of the lucky ones.

This is how it is with me. An email arrives from Richard Rohr Daily Meditations entitled Who Am I?  It has this quote: "Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."—Dr. Howard Thurman (1899-1981), theologian and civil rights leader.

This is how it is with me.
They say the economy is booming, the jobless rate at an all-time low. Try telling that to the bookstore owner; the adjunct professor getting a pittance for teaching a subject he or she loves; the director of a nonprofit agency where selflessness and commitment to the greater good goes rewarded with a salary no one can live on.

This is how it is with me. A storytelling group is winding down now after thirty-six years. Everyone is old and tired … workshops didn’t pay. People got fed up devoting their creative energy without a morsel of compensation. One man says he didn’t get one gig out of it. But he comes back to the group on this rainy day because telling stories makes him come alive.

This is how it is with me.
When one gets tired, you can bet another picks up the gauntlet … starts a writing group, holds a writing workshop, writes a memoir or a novel and reads at the local library, even if only two or three are in attendance. A full house would be nice, but unlikely.

This is how it is with me. The garden must be tended, not trampled underfoot. Most of the media is on a self-serving ego trip except for investigative journalists toiling away because journalism is their passion. I believed that once and still do.

This is how it is with me.
I worked a low-paying newspaper job, dragged my kids to daycare, never got promoted, and if my husband hadn’t died, I would have been working two jobs, or living in a trailer … or maybe turning to opioids … because the job I loved never paid, but his pension kept me afloat.

This is how it with me—throughout it all I’ve been reporting, scribbling, journaling, self-publishing, blogging and sharing my observations about the world. Because as Bukowski says about writing: "You will keep on doing it until you die or it dies in you. There is no other way and there never was."

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