Sometimes, when people ask what I do, and I say ‘I’m a writer’ (especially now that I don’t teach fulltime), they look puzzled. Well, actually they look completely flummoxed. How can that be a JOB?? And just what the heck do writers really DO, anyway??
So in case you were wondering, here’s what writers do:
They daydream. Alot. And often it has very little to do with what they then produce. Instead, it has to do with a kind of internal compass… What’s important? What’s worth writing about? What is too personal for the people you reveal?
They also stare at blank surfaces. Alot. Screens, paper, journal pages, windows, even the blank blue sky. Something there is about a blank surface that begs to be written…
Often they read. But, as the wonderful Julia Cameron reminds us in her book The Artist’s Way, reading can be an excuse not to write…
Sometimes (well, actually fairly often), they fret. They fret about deadlines if they have them, and worry they’d be more productive (if they don’t).
Of course, this isn’t really news, if you’re a writer. But for readers, or those who think of words as only kites of communication set sail upon some unknown solar wind…? Writers are odd, not-to-be-trusted folks.
They’re wise, these non-believers, to be cautious. Because writers wield weapons — pens, pencils, markers. Laptops, tablets, desktops. Blackboards and whiteboards and even NON-TEXT. Posters, and paintings, and cartoons. Films and photographs. Flowers arranged to Victorian codes… It’s all writing, in the write hands.
Most important, however, is that writers connect us. They weave threads of meaning like tensile steel between distant points. Threads that become cables. That become bridges. That bring one unknown landscape closer to another. Not only the walkable, climbeable, swimmable landscape of some far-off place with an unpronounceable name, but the dimly felt interior space of a stranger’s mind. An era of a Babylonian queen — lonely in her power — millenia past. Empathy for someone under the bloody thumbs of greed, power-mania, hate. Passion for justice.
That’s what writers do. Even when they fall short of their goals? That’s where we’re each heading.