The Question Is…
I believe I was rather a curious child. Now that I’m in my eighth decade, it seems to me that I have hundreds more questions than I ever did when I was young. Even allowing for all the facts and means of coping that no child is born knowing, now that most of those concerns are taken care ofwell enough, half my waking hours are taken up wondering, Where’s that wisdom that just still being here is supposed to confer? (You see what I mean.)
Too many of those questions seem to spring out of the past and its list of things done and things left undone, in the wording of The Book of Common Prayer. I’m not talking about “what ifs.” I’m afraid what I mean has more to do with how we might do or react to things at a different stage of our lives than the ones we had reached when it became necessary to meet crises and puzzles and ecstasy head-on. How much do we fail at or forget to allow to sink in just because we haven’t had enough experience to see in three dimensions or how to judge perspective?
Now that I’ve developed a kind of habit of rendering into words what swirls around so relentlessly inside my cranium, I come up against another big question. Namely: if I put the time and effort into expressing all this, what’s the point?
I’ve discovered one thing that puts me at odds with what used to be the establishment of writing instructors, and that is that there’s no joy in doing all that work for oneself. A writer doesn’t write, darn it, for him or herself; that labor goes to satisfy a reader, or more accurately, many readers. Maybe we don’t expect to make a living at it, much less get rich doing it, but we bother in the hope that there will be a few minds elsewhere that might crack open far enough to let us in, and if they do, that they may enjoy themselves or learn something from what that poor benighted writer tapped out on a keyboard.
The examples of people who have spent even brief lifetimes entertaining and enlightening everyone who could read are daunting and inspiring. One of these nagging questions of mine has to do with whether someone with no credentials known beyond what personal acquaintances have heard, and from nothing much more than general living has any business taking up a pose that might make someone think competition is a motive. Honestly, I know my limitations and respect the expertise of legions not only from the past, but of today. A conversation with one of my college-age grandchildren gives me pause. I learned the meaning of “hubris” even before I was in college.
You’re thinking, “She’s just another wannabe with no chance of a big contract, and she’s just feeling sorry for herself.” Half true. On the other hand, if you suffer from this compulsion to put things on paper, I’d honestly like to find out before my last breath if even a couple of dozen readers are enough to legitimize all this angst, not to mention ink and paper and postage.
On the third hand, sometimes you just do what you gotta do.