Thank you Sarah, Kathleen, Walk, Daisy-Winifred, Gullible, Deanna, Deb and others for your expressions of prayerful support, healing vibes and general solidarity. I’ll share your good words with my little brother.
He is a good six inches taller than me, but I’ve got three years on him. Our older brother is three years my senior. We have two big sisters, who had a big trick played on them when we three were born. They were just old enough to be promptly turned into baby-sitters and little mamas for us.
I subscribe to Barbara DeMarko Barrett’s excellent podcast, Pen on Fire, in which she interviews authors and others. A few days ago, I listened to a terrific interview with Dylan Landis, author of Normal People Don’t Live Like This (which I just ordered). I’m going to listen to that interview again tonight so I can hear once more what Landis has to say about learning to hold her finger in the fire, a metaphor for learning to live with pain while you are writing. I realize I may have twisted her context a little to fit my own circumstances — one of the reasons I want to hear her own words again, but the essence is that when you get to a place with your writing where it hurts, and is hard to stay with, you are getting to the “good stuff” and your work will be more powerful if you can stay with it.
Here’s the thing: writing isn’t something we do to amuse ourselves. It is our way through the hell and the heaven of life. My artist sister interprets her creative visions through a wondrous alchemy of visual arts that includes painting, collage, and other media.That is her way.
And so, I have become self-revelatory here in this wide open yet strangely intimate space. You give me permission to be weak, vain, full of myself, creative, loving, innocent and eager as a pup. Even to reveal my helplessness. Even to confess feelings of guilt for leaving my baby brother home alone with our unstable mother and going away to college the summer I graduated from high school. Fast as I could get out of town, I did. Yes. I know that has nothing to do with why he is sick now. But it’s been stuck in my craw all these years. There. That’s what I mean by holding my finger in the fire.
It’s a way to learn to be a better writer. Maybe even a better human being.