He hugged me deliberately — not that side-arm hugged which always infuriated me, informed he was paying only partial attention — but a full-breasted hug. Because it’d be our last. I’d decided to leave our long-term marriage in pursuit of reclaiming myself.
That was eight years and one Naropa University-Ecopsychology-program-mandated-Vision Quest ago. I’ve grown immeasurably and learned more than any graduate school curriculum I could’ve signed up for. We’ve gone from great soulmates to great friends. We’ve both remarried and attended each other’s weddings — well, he attended mine, that is. Despite my maturity, I never lost my deeper sensitivity.
And I now write. Full-time, though only Jesus and our six rescue cats know, how much of an effort it is. And other writers, of course.
Anyone writing full-time knows about the intense need to be heard. Anyone who has ever embarked on a serious effort to embrace a writing life, quit their day job and signed onto the great unknown, understands there is something deeper driving otherwise irrational decisions.
Writers want to be heard. Their voices need an audience.
Here’s the other truth about what every writer fears, if she doesn’t find her audience:
Her work will be for naught. She will have failed to make her contribution to the human community, will have wasted her life energy on fruitless efforts. Probably, her dog will love her and her husband will miss her, but that won’t matter as much as the knowledge that her work touched people. She can die happy if she gets her books and articles published, and a decent number of people have read them. Her kids, if she has any, will pale in comparison to the published book on the shelf and her name in the reviews. Because she will have dismissed all who loved her anyway — because the big, wide, world, didn’t acknowledge her gifts and see her for the talent she truly is…
Sound egotistical? Think again. If you’re a writer, we crave reaffirmation for our work because it completes the cycle. It is as soothing to our souls as this year’s solar eclipse was to my physicist spouse.
And what is reaffirmation?
It’s that big pause and nod from the larger human community that we can know our words have some value. We’ve touched someone with our efforts. Making a difference is a powerful draw to create.
Even deeper, it’s about love. Acknowledgment equates with being seen, and being seen feels like receiving love. Who doesn’t need love from this world, to feel like we matter?
Sure, we can all write until we die and never know if our words reached anyone. There are several well-known artists who died unacknowledged, whose work only now has meaning. Walt Whitman (and no, I’m not comparing myself to him) may be smiling as he peeks down between the stars on university students contemplating Leaves of Grass – but wouldn’t he have led a happier life, knowing he was touching the hearts of his readers, when he was alive?
It only makes sense to keep trying to make it count in the here and now. In this vast Universe where uncertainty grows like a mold in a Louisiana bathroom, one never knows if their work matters until they get some recognition in this large and sometimes unfriendly world. Finding place for one’s art is a worthwhile endeavor, something I personally feel as driven to do as the need to dance every day.
So just for today, I’ll be looking for one more place for my writing. As a writer, I must commit to submit and support others in doing just the same, as though a vibrant, satisfying writing life depends on it…