Virginia Woolf once said:
“I have a deeply hidden and inarticulate desire for something beyond daily life.”
I read that quote with a shock of recognition, thinking, “Me, too!” Immediately I wanted to share her words, thinking, “Isn’t this wonderful! Doesn’t this confirm it! I am like a famous author! I was made to be a writer!!!” Yes, gushing would be an adequate description of my thought process.
Then I thought, “Hold on there, Zigenis. If you publish this quote and claim your kinship with Virginia Woolf, won’t you be negating the key virtue it appears to be espousing–harboring a ‘hidden’ and ‘inarticulate’ desire? And in articulating these thoughts, didn’t Woolf negate the very beauty of a hidden and inarticulate longing?
Oh, how complicated we humans are.
So I guess, instead of playing coy and claiming my desire is secret and wordless, I think I’ll just confess. I do long for a life that reaches beyond everyday existence. And when I pull my head out of the clouds, I don’t think it would be unreasonable to believe this is far from being an uncommon desire. I think human beings naturally yearn for a better, higher, more honorable, more holy existence. I think it is what makes us what we are.
It is why I read and write.
What does this yearning drive you to do?
This week we are working on reading strategies–circling keywords, marking the text, and writing in the margins.
As the students and I discussed why these strategies are useful, I realized, it’s not just writer’s who think better with a pen in their hands, but anyone who reads, seeking to understand.
So much for my theory that thinking best with pen in hand is one of the qualities that make me a writer. I am humbled. I am human. I am in good company!
When I chose to become a Language Arts teacher, I thought what better career could there be? If I can’t be writing, I can at least be teaching others how to write. Since then, helping students learn to communicate effectively has been my joy, but also my challenge. As an employed teacher, I have so much less personal reading and writing time than I had as a writer. (I also have better health care and health care insurance, a steadier income, and of course, those three months of summer when I can be just a writer again.)
When September rolls around, it is always hard to let go of that writing-only lifestyle. However, with the big changes rumbling through our school districts with implementation of the Common Core State Standards, I am finding satisfaction in trying to help make the adjustment to more stringent literacy standards easier for both my colleagues and students.
In addition, I have come into this new school year committed to maintaining my own reading and writing lifestyle, even if in a more abbreviated form. How am I doing it?
- I’m coming home from work and working on writing for an hour at least three days per week.
- I am continuing to read writing periodicals and blogs. Because my husband and I commute together and he starts working earlier than I do, I use my early half hour at work to read about ways to continue building my skills and keep up with what’s happening in the writing world.
- I am making myself go to bed early so I can get in at least an hour of reading time before going to sleep. (Is there anything more comfortable than reading in bed!)
- I am committing to having something to share at my writing critique group meetings. (I once challenged one of my writing friends saying, “Anyone can bring a page.” Last spring she had the opportunity to hand that challenge back to me. And it’s true. We have two weeks between meetings. I should be able to bring at least a page.)
And so far, I feel pretty balanced. Yes, I yearn for more time to write and revise my fiction. However, I am also finding satisfaction in my time spent in the classroom. I feel like I am contributing to something worthwhile.
So, three weeks into the school year, how’s my balance? I can report that so far it is feeling pretty good. And by the grace of God, I can hope that it will stay that way.
Today I nearly read, cover to cover, the October issue of Writer’s Digest magazine. In their interview with David Sedaris, I was struck by something he said that reminded me of my first hint that I might be a writer.
Asked about his writing rituals, Sedaris stated he had very few, besides immediately getting to work each day. He said:
I only know what I’m feeling on paper. I can only tame it, I suppose on paper. And so I sit down every morning, and I make sense of the world–and I don’t let things get in the way.
Like Sedaris, writing is the way I comprehend my life. I think better with a pen in my hand. Although I did not grow up knowing I was going to be an author from the day I could first scrawl a word with one of those big fat pencils on that wide-lined newsprint they gave you in kindergarten, I did learn during my typically turbulent teen years that if I had I problem, I had best sit down and write about it. Before my Bonehead English (English 1A) instructor could shatter my hopes of ever being able to communicate effectively in writing, I learned that I think best with a pen in my hand (and preferably some socially acceptable medium to write upon).
Before I ever matured and developed the nerve to even try writing professionally, that truth was embedded in my soul.
What about you? What was your first inkling that somewhere inside of you was someone destined to be a writer?
September 1–the true new year has begun.
The sun is shining, the air is still and warm, with a cool that lingers in the house long after sun-up. It is September. Summer is over and school starts on Tuesday. While I have railed at all I was unable to accomplish over this summer, today I find my heart peaceful, still.
I know, as I resume my teaching career, that it will require discipline and energy in order to remain faithful to my writing life as well. With the Summer of the Three Sinus Infections behind me, along with many unmet goals and unexecuted plans, I realize my ability to “perform” does not belong to me at all!
And so, it is with humility and faith that I step into this new school year. I know it is God who has given me the story ideas, ability to write, and the opportunities to grow in my craft and exercise my skills. He has also placed me in the wonderful teaching position I hold. He is the master of my health and my energy. And so I will step forward in faith and trust.
Discipline and faith will be my watchwords of this new year. I look forward to helping this years crop of students find their voices and learn to communicate effectively. I look forward to another quick revision of my novel, The Swallow’s Spring, and the adventure of finding it a publishing home. I look forward to reading, and writing, and pinning, and loving my family and home. I don’t know how I will do it all, but I know, by the grace of God, what is needful will be attended to and I can settle my heart in peace.
(Now to remember to reread this when the storms of autumn settle in!)