When Living Isn’t Enough

Thomas Mann wrote that a writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. Could there be a better definition? While others use words to communicate, writers understand that words hold greater magic, that when pieced together in just the right combination, words give us passage into our deepest selves. We write to discover what we know. We write to set ourselves free.

I often think of words as blackbirds wheeling above a wire. I know I can coax them down; I’ve done it before. I know they will settle into a tidy line, and that this line, while not perfect, will at least be coherent. As I am no Shakespeare, this process will take an absurd amount of time, and some of the birds will have to be shifted around. Eventually I’ll recognize that I have exhausted my potential, which is when I click and save. One more idea wrested into words, one more swipe at the great mystery.

Others might pity writers, might call it tyranny, this compulsion to hunt down the meaning of our experiences. Why isn’t living enough for us? I don’t know. I need to write about that.

How peaceful it must be to be done with each day when the day is done. All this sifting and sieving, this endless analyzing—I can’t say I’m any happier for the effort I’ve expended (nor a penny richer, but that’s another blog). And many times I wind up with nothing. Words are tools and sometimes they come up short, sometimes they fail me. Or I fail them.

Scant recognition. Slight compensation. Dubious value. Impossible odds.

Life is short. Mine will be over long before I’ve learned how to live it. You’d think I’d just stop this mad chase. Go play. Have fun.

Maybe I will. After.

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10 thoughts on “When Living Isn’t Enough

  1. Bless you, Jean, once again, for saying what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it. I know those blackbirds, but I have been trying to make them talk. Thanks for standing under the line with me, reminding me that I am the one who supplies the words.

  2. This really resonates. How tempting to just live life and not pursue this craft. But then, would we really be living? I believe (and I’m sure you do, too) we’re all richer for the attempt.

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