The real estate sign went up at the end of our driveway yesterday, and the curiosity in our community is piqued. Four cars came down the lane to take a look, which requires a certain level of commitment when a driveway is a quarter-mile long. All this attention and appreciation makes me sad to leave this place because, friends, it is beautiful. (See for yourself if you’d like.)
But in the quiet mornings before the house wakes, when I get to sit with words and ponder book ideas and ways to find my readers, oh, the prospect of more space, more time, even more finances to live this life of words, it tempers that sadness well.
Today, then, I’m pondering all the ways this life of words fills me, and I’m hoping that you find yourself kindred in my list or are spurred to consider your own list.
- I get to know other writers and read their books early sometimes. This morning, I spent some time with Shawn Smucker’s forthcoming novel, Light from Distant Stars, and it is beautiful. Because I know Shawn well, (he and I co-lead our writers’ retreat with Kelly Chripczuk,) I can hear his voice in the pages, almost watch him work out the truth of his words as he pens them. That’s a special thing.
- I get to read for a living. Not only do I have the opportunity – and, I would argue, the obligation – to read the books of my contemporaries, I also get to read books for clients as an editor. I used to tell my mom I wanted to read books for a living, and well, here I am.
- I get to explore my own thoughts and feelings on the page. Because I’m a verbal processor, I don’t often know what I think or feel until I speak it or write it. It’s a little awkward to just wander around town and talk out loud. So a notebook and a pen give me a chance to understand my own experience more fully.
- I get to meet readers. I regularly get notes from people who have read my books, and I treasure them. These people took time from their full lives, they chose my book over the millions of others, and gave it their attention. Then, they took the time to tell me they read it and what they thought of it. Holy cow, what a gift!
- I get to explore new places, cultures, and experiences. In the latest episode of the wonderful What Should I Read Next podcast, Anne Bogel’s guest talks about traveling the world while she stays at home with her young children. I LOVE THAT. Right now, I’m spending some time on the Outer Banks of North Carolina with Emma St. Clair’s Sandover Beach Week,* and soon, I’m delving into the wild, funny world of 1990s Los Angeles with Back to Reality* by Mark Stay and Mark Oliver*. What a gift!
- I get to write the way I see the world without interruption. When I write a book, I have full control. I can decide that people can light things on fire with their fingers (as I did in my new book The Boy Who Could See Secrets), or I could blend historical writing with imagination like I did in The Slaves Have Names.
- I get to see the world through story. Nothing is ever boring to me if I remember that there’s an angle at which this can be put into my own words. An afternoon at the mechanic can become an opportunity to study the people there and ponder their situations and stories. A NASCAR race with my husband on Sunday afternoon is a chance to think about the reasons people love this sport – or loathe it. Everything becomes a moment when I can start the work of words.
- I get to show my son a life built around creativity. The 21st century world is one that outwardly often disparages creative people. We appreciate what they create – movies, books, films, video games, the handy timer on the dishwasher – but we don’t value the open space and time to think and play that creativity requires. I’m so glad I get to model that for Milo.
- I get paid for something I believe is valuable, and I love my job. This is a privilege I don’t take for granted because I know so many of us have to work at jobs we, at best, tolerate and, at worst, loathe.
- I get to imagine all day long. People are often surprised when I say that one of the best parts of being a writer is that I can think about anything and call it work. I put off a “down to earth” vibe, I guess, and this idea of imagining feels a bit “woo woo” maybe. But goodness, I love disappearing into my thoughts and following them around.
Your turn. What are the best parts of the writer’s life for you?
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