One Word in Front of the Other, and Keep Going.
How many people are writers?
I would say most people. But, I could be lying. Or be mistaken. And what is a writer, anyway. Or a person? Computers and apps write letters, words and even books (and films), so are they writers?
I have lost count of the number of people who talked about how they used to write but they don’t do that anymore. How life, living, and their lack of progress got in their way. Who used to write for fun, for joy, and because they we compelled to, but don’t because what is the point? And why bother? And, anyway, I’m too old and tired for that crap these days.
I am one of those people.
For the longest time I wanted to be a writer, whatever that means. Some vague ideas about producing worthy prose on numerous topics. Books, plays, stories, reviews, short-form, long-form, poems and songs. I would create and nurture and finish and bless these missive and set them free into the world. And there they would encounter their true love. The reader.
A long time ago someone told me I should read On Writing by Stephen King. Every writer should read this. If you want to be a writer, you have to read this.
Guess what? I didn’t read it. If I was to be a writer then I was writing from my soul, my intellect and my heart. No damned book from a two-bit multi-best selling author who haunted my teens with his scary, addictive and world-changing books could possibly tell me anything about how I was going to be a writer because only I could know that.
It turns out, that I was right.
And also, dead wrong.
Do you know what it’s like to leave your friends, family, home and move half-way across the world with only a few suitcases and a rag-tag collection of children and adults? To a country where you have no family, no friends, no home and only the promise of a job for one of the adults? Who would take such a risk? And why?
What if you spoke the language, the job was secure and the country stable? What if the prospects for you, and your kids, were so much better? What if you were ready for a new challenge and a new start, and the thought of staying where you were was worse than the thought you might not make it in your new country? Would you do it then?
Decisions are tricky things. Not making a decision is still making a decision. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Who is in control, anyway? I could decide to travel into Vancouver for an appointment, get stuck on the bridge and miss my chance. Or get lost trying to negotiate the streets of downtown and get stuck in the one-way system and end up driving around for the rest of the day, trying to catch up with myself.
Man plans, God laughs. We set our goals and watch the world chip away at the edges until we can’t even remember what it was we were supposed to be doing.
But not at work. At work there are goals AND deadlines AND people around us AND consequences if we mess up. And also, if we’re lucky, some sort of financial reward at the end of it. We get paid. We get paid for results, and also just for showing up, most of the time. If we show up and don’t produce, we will, sooner or later, be on our way. But there is routine and people and stuff around us to keep us on track.
We want to work. Mostly, we want to work hard. And by that I mean devote ourselves to the task in hand so that, when we have finished it, we feel satisfied a result was achieved. Much of work, either at a paid workplace or even cleaning your house, is not satisfying. We trade our precious, one-chance-only time to push paper, pixels or matter around from done place to the next. But that trade is worth it because it keeps a roof over our heads, food in the fridge, our home free from dust bunnies and we maybe have a little money left over to enjoy ourselves.
Real people, not the pretend people we see on the news or read about on Internet, are in real trouble. Unable to keep that roof over their heads, or food in the fridge and would eat the dust bunnies if there was any nutrition in them. Real people in this country. Not somewhere else, filled with others, people not like us, but right here in our neighbourhood. Homelessness is on the rise, lives are on the edge and fear is real.
So what if your job isn’t feeding your soul? It puts food on the table and you can’t help but feel gratitude for that. When you are tired at the end of the day, you imagine how the ones on the edge feel. You are not heartless. You know people are suffering. And, anyway, making a decent fist of your job means that the rest of your colleagues have a slightly easier job. You can still make a difference. And maybe this week you will bake some cookies and share them. Or ask if you can hold a bake sale for the new shelter that has opened. Because, you know, we need to think about people who aren’t as fortunate.
And you have sat and done all that without even moving to pick up your cup and drink your tea. Because you just thought it in your head and that’s as far is it will get and anyway the kids will be up in a minute and you need to think about what you are going to eat tonight because if you hear that phrase be more time you will probably scream and keep screaming, and that will be bad.
It will all be bad.
But writing can make it better.