Saints and poets

Something magical happens when a writer puts pen to paper or fingers to a keyboard. Sometimes dreams come true.

If you know me, you know I’m not much of a talker. Well, to most people, I’m not much of a talker. If I trust you and if I like you, if I like you a lot, I probably won’t shut up. (Just ask my students. I’m crazy about them. I can hear them groaning right now. “Oh, she goes on and on and on.”)

Usually when I try to say something really important aloud, it never comes out right. So when I can’t say it aloud, I say it through my writing. When I can’t say it through my writing, I pick up my guitar.

So the creative process goes. Some people paint. Some people sculpt. Some people take pictures to release their secrets when simply speaking will not do.

And then sometimes something magical happens. The creative language transcends the ordinary and speaks in a way kindred souls can understand.

Sometimes a writer almost gives up. Sometimes a writer succumbs to the demons that taunt him. Writers, poets, musicians and artists feel life much more deeply, more intensely, than do others who can’t appreciate the exhilaration that comes with creation.

I can’t help but think of a quote from Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town. Emily asks the Stage Manager, “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it–every, every minute?” He replies, “No, saints and poets, maybe–they do some.”

Most of us just go about our busyness, ignoring confrontations with life when we can. But writers take time to reply when life begins a dialogue. And then sometimes the magic happens when he or she leasts expects it.

Take, for example, J.K. Rowling, a single mom with a failed marriage. She was on a train from London to Manchester when she ran into a four-hour delay and could only sit and think. She didn’t even have a pen to write down her thoughts, and she was too embarrassed to ask for one. But she held on to her story of a wizard child and found her muse and the courage to write and see the story to publication—even after multiple rejections. Did I mention she was an English teacher?

How about Stephen King? Like many of us, he suffered through discouragement and, as a result, battled a severed drinking problem. He encountered such doubt that he even threw away a draft of Carrie. His wife retrieved it—thank goodness. He continues to produce works that make us tremble. By the way, did I mention Stephen King was once a teacher?

(He’s also a Red Sox fan! And, shhh, promise you won’t tell? I think I may once sat by him at a Red Sox game at Fenway. If you see me, ask me to show you the picture to prove it. And by the way—this is for my newspaper students:  He a wrote a column for his college paper called “Steve King’s Garbage Truck.”)

For all of my fellow writers out there, I encourage you to continue the conversation life is having with you. If you work hard at your craft, perhaps magic will light upon you and you will enjoy the moment of being able to speak the language of saints and poets.