Friday, January 15, 2010

Writing Anyway

I happened to be enrolled in my very first Creative Writing class ever on September 11, 2001. It was the fourth class of the semester, a Tuesday, and my day off from work. I had dropped my kids off at school that morning - one at a Jewish Day school and the other at a Jewish preschool. In my car on the way home I had my radio on and the news alerted me to the fact that a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers in New York.

The day got worse and worse. By noon Arizona time it was obvious, to me at least, that there was the distinct possibility that terrorists were fanning out across the country, attacking various targets. Were the Jewish schools next? I did a U-turn in the road on my way somewhere to go pick up my kids as a precaution, just as my phone rang with the first of the two schools telling me they were closing for the day.

For a bunch of really stupid reasons I had waited until I was forty-one-years-old to ever take a writing class. So, even though as the day was unfolding, writing was looking like the most stupid occupation in the world, I asked my mother to watch my kids so I could go.

I walked into the class and, surprisingly enough, so did all my other classmates. By then, we knew the devastation that had taken place in New York. We all felt embarassed of our writing, of even thinking of writing ever in our entire lives. How could we have ever been involved in something so stupid and self-centered as writing, we asked our professor? People were dying, jumping out of buildings, planes were crashing, and we were sitting there writing.

And she said, don't ever believe that the work you do is unimportant. It's the writers who will define what happened today for generations to come. It's the writers who will write the books and the articles and explain what life was like on this day so historians can write the history of what this day was like. Without writers, we'd know nothing about the Vietnam War, nothing about the entire history of the human people. It's the writers in a society who put form to experience. Never feel bad about writing. Writing is an important job.

I've thought of those words of hers a lot in these quiet days in the blogosphere following the earthquake in Haiti. I've thought, none of us wants to be funny, or write about our kids, or about our exercise or weight loss efforts. None of us want to be trivial because we're worried about trivializing the lives that are, even now, being lost.

But then I think of her words and that creating relationships is no small task, and that making people laugh is not a job for the weak-willed. That writing about the world, even in a tiny corner of it, is a noble task, and carrying on in the untouched world while being touched by the tragedy is not a contradiction in terms.

So I'll keep blogging, and I'll write my humor, and you'll know that, even though I'm doing that, I'm thinking of Haiti.


  1. wow linda, YOu and I think amazingly alike.
    I have learned one thing in my life...
    I have had a lot of bad crap happen...watched my husband and cousins and loved ones go to war, over and over.
    You can't control that.
    obsessing does nothing for you or the people who have been injured and killed.
    Whenever I see that life has been taken way too soon this is what I do.
    I live my life double...
    double the happiness, double the love, doubLE the joy. I live for two.
    That is the way to honor the dead. Cause if they could, if they could come back and tell us ANYTHING...It would be LIVE LIFE.

  2. Wow! This took me back and made me stop and think. Thank you!!!

  3. I was thinking the same thing - how ridiculous it is for all of us to go on as usual with so much devastation - thanks for writing it so beautifully, it really helps.

  4. I've thought of these same issues - the seriousness of what occurred this week (and I immediately zapped back to 9/11, and it's impacts on my personal life, waiting to hear about relatives, including my (then) husband).

    I struggled this week, with appropriate recognition of what has happened in Haiti - and how to reach out in my own way, as a writer, responsibly. And yet I also needed the "life goes on" humor or musings, as we all need it. Perhaps to balance out devastation over which we have no control, providing some small ability to cope, to find meaning in the moments we do have.

    Yes. To so much of what you say here. And more.

  5. I am here through Motherese and I'm glad she sent me here! I have been thinking about this over the past few days... how I can go on writing about my silly drama or insignificant worries as the devastation in Haiti is unfolding. But I decided that just because I'm writing about "my world" doesn't mean that my heart is not aching for Haiti. It also comes back to the fact that I write for ME. To remember. To work out issues and celebrate successes I am finding as a mom. I want my readers to join me and enjoy reading my words but I can't apologize for writing "drivel" if it's what is getting me through the days.

    We all get through tragedies in different ways. Just as some read everything, watch everything and soak it all in.. others turn away and do what is comforting for them. Writing is my comfort when what is happening in the world may be just the opposite.

    Thanks for this great post - I'll be back!

  6. I know that same feeling. Similar to survivors guilt, I suppose. It almost seems like flaunting my safety and security while so many people are suffering. You have a wonderful perspective, thanks for sharing.

  7. Chris, What a beautiful comment! Double the happiness, double the love and double the joy. Thanks for writing that.

  8. Nicki, Thanks so much for visiting my blog and thanks for your comment. It means a lot to me.

  9. Lisa, it's hard sometimes to remember that writing is important. I have to remind myself of my professor's words everytime something bad happens, isn't that weird?

  10. BLW, I'm with you. There's a lot more I could say on the subject; so much more. And what's been really horrible about the quietness of the blogosphere is missing that human connection, missing the thought and the conversation.

    Thanks for coming by.

  11. Becca, thanks for visiting my blog and thanks for your lovely comment. And I agree - not everything written has to be earth-shattering, some writing is made up of tiny moments and smaller topics. The topic of motherhood, of our lives, may seem small but I think it's bigger than we realize.

  12. Charlotte, you're right about survivor's guilt. And in this case, people have guilt over food or shelter or anything they have that the Haitians don't. Ultimately, though, a futile thought process except if it motivates us to help.

  13. Thanks for this powerful post, Linda. I share with you and the previous commenters that sense of futility - why write? - in the face of the devastation in Haiti. But my topic is usually motherhood and I have felt so viscerally the blessings of motherhood these last few days, the blessings of safe and healthy children, a roof over our heads, and clean water to drink. And, like Becca said, if writing is therapeutic, why not write? Maybe writing can even be a form of tribute, a way of keeping in our hearts and minds people we don't know who are suffering things we can't imagine.

  14. I agree, Kristen. And maybe writing is the best tribute of all, of remembering their lives by living ours, of paying tribute to their relationships by honoring our own.

  15. Somehow I missed this back when you wrote it, it's beautiful!