Welcome to Spring 2020! Hoo-boy, it’s already a doozy, and it hasn’t even officially started. So far we’ve had fires, floods, and rising tides (to the point of causing houses to fall in here along the Great Lakes). Not to mention political strife (plenty!) and economic upheaval (a veritable rollercoaster!).
And now a pandemic.
There’s real fear out there. Understandably! People are suffering and dying. Whether or not we’re sick, or know anyone who is, it’s a time when we’re all feeling vulnerable and isolated. A crisis like this tends to put the fragility of life into focus. I have to admit, it’s led me to some soul-searching. I’ve found myself asking a lot of questions of late. About my writing and more, of course. For the sake of this essay, I’ll try to stick to the ones about writing. But fair warning: for me writing is tightly entwined with living life.
I’ve always been the type to question myself about my writing. The basic stuff—such as, why do I write?—hasn’t really changed. So let’s skip ahead to questions like:
*Why’d I have to start writing so late in life?
*Why does it have to take so damn long to get it right?
*Why don’t I catch on faster; see the themes more clearly and sooner; thread the changes through more completely; get to “done” more effectively?
*Why couldn’t my parents had lived to my seeing this through? Or my wife’s parents? (I think her dad—a Latin and mythology scholar—might have really gotten a kick out of my stories.)
They’re questions which lead to more questions, like:
*When will this book finally be ready?
*Will it take this long to get each of my five remaining books ready to go?
*How long will I be sharp enough to stay on top of this?
*What if I run out of time? (I really hate the idea of leaving this job unfinished.)
Dolorous questions aside, I have experienced a crisis that felt similar to this. I recall the same sort of existential edginess in the days and weeks after 9/11. Several years afterward—after I began writing—I wrote: “Such a strange and tragic day. The earth seemed to tilt off of its axis that morning, and it took a long while for it to return to spinning as it once had.” In those same few years, we experienced a series of losses and dramatic life-changes. They were tumultuous times.
On 9/11, my wife and I still ran our business in Illinois, and I clearly recall how all we wanted to do was get to our cottage in Michigan (now our residence). It was about being home, and together; nearer to family and closer to nature. You know, seeking what’s really important.
So what did we do when we got here? [Read more…]