Before I delve deeply into the intended topic of this post, which is three ways that writing helps us lead better lives, I have a few things to say.
First of all, it has been a while since I posted to this blog, almost a month, in fact. Incredibly, the number of visitors to this blog has not slowed during my absence. In fact, I would say it’s even grown slightly. (I credit that to the automated tweets I scheduled out a month or so ago that continue to publish and send visitors to this site.)
However, it is now time to say, well, “I’ll see you later.”
I Won’t Say Goodbye, My Friend
“I’ll see you later” is not the same thing as goodbye. And you know what? I WON’T say goodbye. As Tom Petty once memorably sang, “You and I will meet again / when we’re least expecting it. Somewhere in some far off place / I will recognize your face. I won’t say goodbye, my friend / for you and I will meet again.”
However, I am now at a place where the road of my life bends in an unexpected direction, and I must head off down a new path.
It has been my intention over the past year or so to continue to improve my blogging skills and develop this blog to generate an audience of readers for my fiction. I am about 40 pages into a long short story called Wichita Snake, which has been exciting to write. Many of my blog posts have provided historical context for that story. I learned a lot about the history of Wichita, Kansas, I’ll tell you that much!
I won’t say goodbye to that story either, however; I will merely put it aside for a while. I also have my novel, Billy Maddox Takes His Shot, to continue to think about.
What’s Been Going On
However, a separation from my spouse earlier this year has brought me to a place where I am compelled to pursue a different endeavor, at least for a time. If it were only me in the muck, I doubt very much I would change course. However, I have a young son to think about, as well as obligations I feel are mine regarding his future welfare.
One cold winter in Carbondale, Colorado in 2007, I read How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James Frey. One bit of advice he offers to strengthen your writing is to minimize the impact of friends and family on your time; that didn’t go over well with my sensibilities and it was all I could do not to chuck the book out into the deeply swelling piles of snow.
At the end of the day, and I suppose every writer or artistic individual must make this same kind of reckoning, I choose my family over my art. Or at least, I should say, I choose my young son, since he is in no position to make his own choices and look after his own welfare. He relies on me and I feel obliged to be there, as his father, for him.
With that said, there remains good news regarding what lies down the road for me. My future endeavor will include creating an online presence with a lot of writing. The writing will not be fiction. But I feel fortunate to say it will help support a peaceful separation for spouses who believe the end of their relationship has come.
My wife and I passed through a collaborative process of separation, which means we both met with our respective attorneys on several occasions, outside the court system, to agree upon the terms of our separation. We have not, in other words, pursued aggressive litigation and did not stand before the court to let a strange judge determine the fate of our, or our son’s, future welfare.
Not enough couples perhaps know that such a thing as collaborative divorce exists. The process brings a kind of dignity and respect to the process of separation, that can assist in the healing process that must follow for both spouses and the rest of the family.
This is Where I’m Going With It
My day job involves marketing professional services for an accounting firm in Bethesda, Maryland, and so my online presence will reflect my interest in helping attorneys who practice collaborative law to market their services. The broader the reach of such attorneys, the easier it will be for more adults to know there is an alternative to drawing a line in the sand and looking at their spouse in a faltering marriage as “the enemy”. I believe in treating others well, no matter the circumstances of the relationship.
It has been my experience that most people who disappoint others do so not out of deliberate cruelty but out of choices they have made for their own lives, which just happens not to align with the goals or dreams of those around them. Of course, there are exceptions. There are people who intentionally act to destroy the hopes of others. But I have been fortunate enough (for the most part) to not have to experience such nastiness.
I have no idea if this new business will generate clients or enjoy success. It is exciting, though terrifying too, to pursue a kind of entrepreneurial enterprise. I also feel it is the right step to take at the moment. Emotions attached to my separation and the economic challenges of my current lifestyle often interfere to cloud my judgment and make me re-think the choice I am making. Have I mentioned, this is quite scary?
But I have had friends and family support me during this time. Even if I do not now live the kind of life I ever expected to at age 42, the next day beckons and I must act. I draw upon my optimism and upon the discipline and will power which, years ago, helped me earn a black belt in tae kwon do. As I also mentioned above, one positive aspect to this path before me is the ability to continue writing.
Three Ways That Writing Helps Us Lead Better Lives
And so, to address what I have always believed is true about writing, in fiction, in essays, in poetry and in so many other forms of writing, I list here the three most important ways that I believe writing helps us lead better lives.
1. Writing reflects our ability to hope. The world is flesh and bone. It is meat and hard corners and dust that turns to flesh and then back to dust again. Life follows the laws of nature and sometimes of man, and it is unforgiving in its punishment of even small mistakes. In this tough world, writing provides sustenance to our minds, where thoughts and emotions act unshackled.
Writing offers the freedom of words, the freedom of expression, unbound from cruel walls. That humans can even be capable of this offering, as delivered through intentional language–through writing!–is a testament to the unconquerable hope of the human race.
Despite the hardships, the poverty, the wars, the struggles, the cruelties and all the malevolence that could so easily bury and defeat us beneath the weight of anguish, yet we write. We push against the wasteland laid out before us. We cry, we scream, we shout–what exists here for my five senses is not enough. Our mind’s vision blazes with a chariot of truth roaring confidently into the So Much More beyond our physical experiences. Though we have little tangible evidence of it, we write to demonstrate our hope and our unshakable faith that this greater world we forge via our words, is one in which we expect to live. It is the world, believe, we deserve. Writing reflects our eternal hope!
2. Writing reflects our ability to celebrate the accomplishments of our lives. We have no record of our lives except in writing. Each moment of our lives passes and without that record, those moments become discarded to the past. Do we not wish to treasure them, remember them, celebrate the fact that those moments happened?
Each moment we pass through is a bridge to something new, something we never could have experienced without that bridge. Our lives are composed of a series of bridges that we survive and celebrate. They are all we have and, truly, even in the occasional sorrowful moment, we live and breathe through them. Each moment is an accomplishment. Our lives are lines, leaving memories in their wake that must be recorded. We must celebrate.
3. Writing reflects our capacity to love. Yes, I borrow from the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians, Chapter 13, Verse 13. “And now, these three remain, hope, faith and love. And the greatest of these is love.” Truly, this blog post could have substituted the second reflection of “accomplishment” for one of “faith”. It was actually not until this very moment, as I write these words, that I am struck by the fact that the word “faith” does indeed make an appearance under my argument for hope.
Is writing a kind of religion? Have our religions not been passed down to us in written form? The Bible, the Bhagavad Vita, the Koran, the Vedas, the Torah, the Dhammapada. These have all carried the wisdom of ages, the wisdom of kind, good and sacred behavior. And the basis of so much religion, or philosophy, or of wisdom is love, love, love.
We hope because we care. If we did not care, there would be no reason to hope. If we did not believe in the value of our lives, we would not record the accomplishment of the passage of our moments. We love our lives, we love life, no matter how twisted and disappointing and cruel it is. We unstoppably believe those sorrows are something apart from us, something not meant for us.
We believe we are here to connect, to support each other through robust bonds of shared experience in this wasteland of disappointment. Our love is the flood that flows between us, that nothing can stop, that nothing would dare try. Our words flow with love: one person speaks and the other absorbs. Our eyes, our arms, our bodies, our words.
We get distracted by the sad periods of our lives. I get distracted by my failing marriage and my hard circumstances. You get distracted by some other sorrow.
Yet we write, and we love.
Nothing can ever stop that. Nothing ever will.