Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Life in a larger sense outside this Writing Life . . . "A writer is not a hero anymore. He's a fool."

While in Portland, Oregon visiting my son, daughter in law, and Lil Boop, I had time to consider life in a larger sense—meaning, outside of my own self-indulgent pursuits. After all, isn’t the writing life a bit self-indulgent? And a bit selfish. It has to be that way so the work is done. Right? I must ignore family, friends, projects, fun and the outside world—of course, these things aren’t always ignored, but they do feel more than their fair share of neglect.More than you may know or I want to admit, actually.

But while holding my granddaughter’s hand, the vision of my world burst out and beyond and I thought how easy it would be to give up all of it if I could just hold onto her hand for more than two short weeks. I thought how I could make things different when I arrived back home to Killian Knob. How I would not spend so much time with the laptop glued to me, how I would go out and experience more. How I would come home and tackle the projects I’ve been meaning to do, how I would spend more time rocking on the porch with GMR.

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!


Susie Swanson said...

I agree writing does take up a lot of time but it is so good to get away sometimes and enjoy our little ones. Had mine all summer and I'm afraid my writing has took a detour somewhere...Susie

michiko said...

I know that you need all your thought for your writing but you can do manage both love to that...
You are cleverly lady that is "No problems".
I love your the mountains photos.
Enjoy your day,

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Kat .. we need our 9 - 5 ..but we need our families and lives too .. enjoy it all - wonderful you've been able to spend some time with family and friends .. enjoy! Cheers Hilary

john bord said...

Yes writing does take up time but compared to what? A 40 hour work week, the executive 60-80 hour week, the business owner 100 hour week?
Like any other home based business there has to be time invested to get returns. If I do not spend time writing I get no stories. Sharing the stories is part of the joy.
Any job takes away from family and there should be a balance of some kind that, then what are the priorities? Life has its steps, or as Frost noted..... which path to follow.

Walker said...

Hmmm, in Canada we ride beaver not bear.

I can see how you feel that your writing takes you away from those you want to spend time with more or to do things you want to do but don’t because you are strapped to that be.. I mean laptop, but in a way you’re not.
I know a lot of artists who believe the time they sacrifice for their art goes for nothing but it doesn’t.
Your books are a record of where you were and what you were doing.
Not only do they tell those who you miss and miss you what you have been up to but they also give them a better look at who you are outside of the person who they knew growing up.
One day your granddaughter will pick them up one by one and read them or maybe you could read them together to make up for those times writing them consumed the time you could have spent with her.
I think in the end it all balances out in your favor.

Carolyn V said...

I'm still trying to balance writing and life (just to make sure I'm still there for my kids). =)

Love the pictures!!! <3

Hanny said...

You give great insight to the other side of the fence from where I am. It almost sounds like a page from "Bird by Bird"

I currently work a 40-hour work week and come home and try to find time to write. I often wonder what's the point, because there's no guarantee of publication, nor of success. But I feel compelled to do it anyway.

Perhaps it's not so much selfishness, as a cosmic, deep-seeded calling that demands us to act as mediums to the written language that needs come from us. Writers are conduits of thoughts, and the good ideas we have come from nowhere and everywhere, but they need to be told.

Good pictures by the way!

Deb Shucka said...

What a wonderfully insightful post, Kat. I'm so inspired by your journey and your truths - by you. Lovely photos - those should help you stay in balance in a way little else can. You're surrounded by an abundance of grace and glory.