I used to have a poetics, a smart-sounding way of approaching art and writing, and now I think I mostly just try to live my life. It has taken many years, and was never an effort I exerted consciously, but I'm realizing that the way I write is--must be--an extension of the way I live. More accurately, I guess I'm shrugging off the rather precious notion that writing is a separate space, a sanctum, a holiest-of-holies. This discovery feels radical to me, but also very ordinary and light and reassuring.
Maybe it's as simple as redefining my identity, my own value: I'm not a writer only when I write, or only when I publish. I'm a writer all the time. It's a way-of-seeing and a way-of-being. I read books, raise my kids, work my day job, cook meals, vote, pay bills, tolerate children's birthday parties, etc.--as a writer.
I do all of those things as a mother, too. I do all of those things as a person, as a sinner, as a friend.
For some reason, this is a profound comfort to me! It feels simultaneously like an unfurling, and like a coalescing of many selves.
And it has caused me to reckon not only with why I write, but why I do anything. It's the same reason, across all offices of my life, all activities of my mind and body: it's LOVE, dummy. It's love.
I want to live it, share it, bear it, bring it, be it. I want to connect to this earth and to the people in it. I want to find forgiveness when it seems impossible, because there can be no complete love without forgiveness. I want to feel angry knowing that on the other side of anger can be love, all the more miraculous for having disappeared for a bit.
My faith has taught me to love, and when I have lost my faith, people have restored it. People have taught me to love. One day the cashier at Publix called me baby in a certain tone and I started crying. One day I bought a sandwich for a homeless man and he told me about his dead wife and I started crying. Thank you for the sandwich, he said. Thank you for the love, I told him.
Do you know how much love is in this world? We can't rubber-neck the hate all day long. I swear there is more love in this world than we deserve, but only we can show it, and share it. It's the only way through these dark times, and it happens to be the best way.
I can't believe it took me nearly 40 years to appreciate moss or to notice that geraniums smell terrible or to finally understand how teeth work. What was I doing? Worrying about my writing?
I love remembering that I'm a nobody and a somebody all at once. I love remembering that I don't have any answers, except the one answer: to love my neighbor. And when I falter or forget, I can come back and try again. I used to have more opinions. I still have many. I'm working on shedding them, or at least relegating them to the garbage pile they belong in.
When I write, I feel a responsibility to excavate the darkness, and to be extremely precise about it. Happy endings don't interest me too much. Love is not always happy. Love is hard. But it's the only thing, the realest thing, and language is such an ideal vessel for its many shapes and formats and expressions and failures. Sometimes relationships can't withstand the demands of love, but art always can. That's why qualitative/moralizing assessments of art--"it's good," "it's bad"--are so pointless. It exists. As people do. As moss does.
I write because I love it. I write because I love.