Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Life in a larger sense outside this Writing Life . . . "A writer is not a hero anymore. He's a fool."
I’ve been having a great time with my friends Angie Ledbetter and Alaine Benard come to visit me here—getting out and about and all around. They arrived just days after I returned from Portland, and fortunately kept me from sinking back down into my leather chair with laptop attached. And yet I know I will be sucked back into this writing life and all the other suckers that come with it, as if I am the head of an octopus and my eight arms with all their suckers are grabbing here here there there here there and holding on holding holding on less I miss something important or I am not noticed or I ignore someone when I don’t mean to or I don’t do something I should be doing or or or or. And the simple fact is that I just love what I do and that's all there is to it -- it (the writing) is my right arm-leg-fingers-toes, losing it means losing much.
I watched an Anthony Bourdain show where someone had filmed a documentary of him about eleven years ago. There were a couple of things that struck me and I’ll have to paraphrase. One of the guest writers speaking about Bourdain and this writing life said, “A writer is not a hero anymore. He’s a fool.” And I knew what he meant to a certain degree, though I never thought of this writing life as "heroic" or myself as a "hero," ever, never, ever-never. But, the part I understood of that statement was about seeing behind the wizards curtain (I wrote a post about it), how writers aren’t seen as these bigger than life magical people anymore, for the curtain has been pulled back to reveal the little old man. I come from that generation of writers where the curtain has already been pulled back to reveal, not from the "heroic" or magical times.
If I am a fool for doing this (the writing), I go into it with my eyes wide-opened to the foolery of it all. This writing life is all I ever wanted to do, but it can't be all I've ever wanted or needed to Be for that would be somehow lacking.
Bourdain said about this, “Writers are a disappointment compared to their work.” And at that point in the documentary I could see his face changing, for in the beginning there was the excitement of his book coming out, and of being touted and paraded around and the traveling and recognition. And then reality sets in and things begin to warp a bit, fray around the edges. I could see this change in his countenance and features as the documentary wore on.
Then Anthony Bourdain said this, “I want my old life back,” and there was The Face. I’d seen that face before—in my own mirror (and that isn’t to imply, of course, that any of my little successes measure up to his bigger ones at all).
There are times I want to tell writers, “Be careful what you wish for . . .” but, I also know that there is the Rest of the Story. For now you can look at Bourdain’s face grown eleven years older and eleven years wiser. He has taken back some of his power, because he can. In the beginning, we give up power and let ourselves be tossed upon the waves because we are excited and we feel ever so very lucky. Oh how much better to let gratitude slip in for what we have but to recognize we can’t do it all and we shouldn’t try, to let ourselves stop, take a deep breath, and look outward to this larger world. And to learn to let some things Go.
With every story/book I write, I give you everything I have and then I have to let it go out to the world, and what the world does to it and with it is out of my control. I can only write the best book I know how to do. When I learn this is how it must be, I lose The Face. When I walk with my granddaughter, I lose The Face. When I recognize I am so much more than Author of Books—a friend, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a grandmother, a mother, a fallible human being—my world opens out and beyond and I lose The Face, and gain a whole helluva lot more life.
Enjoy your week and the coming weekend, y'all. Namaste!