All morning I lay down sentences, erase them, and try new ones. Soon enough, when things go well, the world around me dwindles; the sky out the window, the furious calm of the big umbrella pine ten feet away, the smell of dust falling onto the hot bulb in the lamp. That's the miracle of writing, the place you try to find--when the room, your body and even time itself cooperate in a vanishing act. Gone are the trucks rumbling outside, the sharp edge of the desk beneath my wrists, the unpaid electricity bill back in Idaho. It might seem lonesome but it's not: soon enough characters drift out of the walls, quiet and watchful, some more distinct than others, waiting to see what will happen to them. And writers come, too. Sometimes every fiction writer I've ever admired is there, from Flaubert to Melville to Wharton, all the books I've loved, all the novels I've wished I were talented enough to write.~Anthony Doerr (From Four Seasons In Rome)
This morning I printed out the first half of the rough draft of the novel I'm working on. Sometimes during the writing process, I come to stopping points and a hard copy can help me get a better idea of what portions need more work, what needs to go, and what I want to keep. I always am amazed that characters do seem to speak, to "drift out of the walls, quiet and watchful," as Anthony Doerr so eloquently describes this mystery. They often do "tell me" what they are feeling, what they long for, what they need. I come to love them. And the world does seem to vanish when I listen to them and detail their lives on the page. Lately, though, I've felt guilty that I love to write and spend a good deal of time at my desk. "What difference does it make anyway, the world so very tangled with grief and fires and war and senseless killing?"
I happened to read an article by Katie Bannon, a writer who provides online resources for authors, that helped to assuage my guilt. Ms. Bannon underscored that the reason writing (and I would add any art form) is necessary during this dark time in our culture, is that people need stories. And I would add, they need beautiful images. And comfort. And peace. Stories help us hang on, inspire us, and help us to connect with people and characters who support us when we're afraid or doubtful or anxious. Stories give us ideas about how to cope with uncertainty and unimaginable pain. Paintings and photography help us imagine a tranquil location, provide images that soothe our wounding, both seen and unseen. Poems and flower gardens help us remember and memorialize those who are gone. Lovely food prepared by artful, skilled hands bring strength to help keep us moving forward. One more step. Art brings solace for the spirit. Our great Creator God knows we need comfort and beauty and restoration. He gives us the sky and the sea and the sound of flutes and drums and harmonic voices. Songs that we sing over and over to disentangle our mourning. Even in the midst of a world on fire, He speaks and uses our collective creativity to bring healing.
Your voice matters. You matter.
I want to thank all of you for joining me here at the site week after week. It is such a joy for me to meet you here. For these next few weeks, I will be away. God's peace and grace to all of you. And love.