My Dear Elizabeth:
You won’t truly “get this” one for a few years yet but there really are stages in life. I know you think you “know” there are stages, in an intellectual “Of course daddy, tell me something I don’t know” way.
But you don’t know this in your marrow.
Oh you might get a glimmer of their existence when you think about your high school years and the differences between the high school politician you were and the consultant, house–building, writing queen you’re morphing into.
At 70, I’ve a few more of those retrospective moments. I’ve had a few easier lessons and a few harder ones. And I know, rather seriously know, I’m going to keep on learning new ones. The truthful writer delves deeply into those “knowings” to express them in a way that others will understand. The good writer lays them out in a way that helps themselves remember and makes contemporaries say, “Yeah that’s how it is.”
Whether in fiction or non-fiction, our task is to connect those disparate thought, ideas and dreams into a single stream.
This is the challenge that I or any other writer has a first identifying those connections and secondly, working to communicate them.
The only advantage being older gives me is the wealth of experiences to examine.
But the challenge is the same, to drop a plumb line into the seething mass of memory and deliver a straight–up interpretation that rings true.
It is no easier for me to do this than for you because finding the truth doesn’t change with age or practice. In some ways, focusing on a specific non-fiction genre reduces the problem to levels when I don’t have to even think about it. But in other ways, non-fiction doesn’t serve my creative soul the way I might like.
At some point, you’re going to want to bust out of your genre or your working day and the trap is that you have to survive, to earn your daily bread.
The solution here is to reinvent yourself regularly from within, leaving the money-making self to keep the wolves at bay. (And yes, my dear, it’s easier said than done.)
Historically, it is only a generation or two of past writers who had the luxury of writing and getting paid for it by a system of publishing. Previous to that, and in our current publishing world, it is very difficult for a writer to sit on the sidelines blissfully writing and expect a full-time income from it.
Shakespeare owned the theatre, you’ll likely only own your content.
So whether you build houses, sling groceries or words across a consultant’s world view, your internal creative energies have to be nurtured and allowed to come out.
The point of this note? We really don’t know what’s ahead, but looking back an reviewing our lessons — writing them down in a journal — is invaluable in finding our true selves and writer’s voices.
Letters To Elizabeth was a project I wrote for one of my daughters.
Image courtesy Mira Cosic on Pixabay