“We look before and after,
Our sincerest laughter
with some pain is fraught:
Our sweetest songs are those that
tell of saddest thought.”
To a Skylark, by Percy Bysshe Shelley
I received a message of concern on Tumblr yesterday. This person rightly detected that my writings these days is a twinge of melancholy. Not melancholy of the depression kind but the melancholy born of circumstances that are hard and situations that cannot be explained. So, I thought I would share some thoughts and why I'm still writing anyway.
Should I write amidst tragedy?A colleague at school has been struggling with her daughter's sudden illness and subsequent amputation of her legs. It has hit us all so deeply, the entire school has been praying and in heartache. Tragic. Heart ache.
In the throes of this, our beloved editor of our local newspaper unexpectedly died of a heart attack. Last week he was singing with the Chamber of Commerce chorale in a black tie and suddenly, this week, he is gone. Tragic. Heartache.
And yet, as I read the life of John Newton, author of the surreal hymn, Amazing Grace, that song was much born out of his tumultuous friendship with William Cowper, a clinically depressed, constantly suicidal friend. At one point Newton said he could not write on without his friend. Then, in the next moment, he wrote on, more productive than ever. Perhaps it was amidst the blood of another suicide attempt and the wails of another fit of melancholy that John Newton truly began to understand what grace meant.
Should one note write because loved ones suffer? Is it an insult to their injuries that we take time to write?
No! Write when your family struggles, for then, too, you may meet with the sublime.
Should I write when I'm too busy?Some choose to cocoon, but for me, I write. Combined with these two events (upon which many salty tears have been shed) the prom that is a week from today that I'm organizing, my son graduating and heading to college in a few months, and the money challenges that come with sending him off to college, as well as some surgery I have to have over break to deal with some skin cancer, and a book deadline that whooshed by like the noise of a thousand subway trains, there's a bit on my plate. Not to mention my precious students and all that comes with a classroom.
But, I read Michael Hyatt's book Platform and realized that if it is to be, it is up to me. I decided to set my clock for 4 am at least 3 times this week to get up and continue progress on my second book for the modern educator faced with teaching writing in the cloud.
Should one not write because life is hard?
No! Write when life is hard, then others may feel the reality in your words and be the better for it! Great writers, write. No excuses, they write anyway.
Should I not write because I'm afraid I won't finish?Then, I look at the beautiful, haunting poem of Cristabel by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. This beautiful, eerie poem remains unfinished, even though Coleridge would add a Part 2 years after it was written. Coleridge was known as a many with many ideas, who could finish nothing.
“His mind,” wrote Southey, “is a perpetual St. Vitus' dance – eternal activity without action.”
And yet, it was also said of him
“His best work is but little, but of its kind it is perfect and unique…All that he did excellently might be bound up in twenty pages, but it should be bound in pure gold.” (Stopford Brooke)
Should one not write because some works will likely remain unfinished?
No! Write, even if you might not finish, for those words, even in their unifinished state, might just be the masterpiece the world will need.
Write on, author, write.
In the To a Skylark poem, I quoted in the opener, Shelley's next verse is thus:
“Yet if we could scornThe juxtaposition of life is often what puts us in a position for enjoying life. While I'll not endorse tragedy or busy-ness or lack of focus as ways to live your life, it is also these things that make life. For after the tart, the sweet tastes sweeter. I don't know about you, but I best identify with authors who have “been there” and “done that.” If they seem to live a perfect life, they are a liar because I've come to understand that life is full of struggle for all humans.
Hate and pride and fear;
If we were things born
not to shed a tear,
I know not how the joy we ever
should come near.”
So, if you are called to be an author, don't worry about any one else psychoanalyzing you or reading things into your words that just aren't there.
Write because you care. Write because you dare. Write because it is what you were born to do. Write on, author, write.
Disclosures and credits
Photo credit: Big stock
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