Today I'm pleased to have Darlyn Finch as my guest at Terry's Place. She was one of my first writing partners, when I was a member of a local group that ended up being called the Pregnant Pigs. She's an amazing writer, who once spent six months as writer in residence at the Jack Kerouac House, and was kind enough to invite me to read at her party representing the culmination of her project there. Welcome, Darlyn.
I know a lot of writers. As a published poet, memoirist, short-story writer, and now fledgling novelist, I’ve been working at the craft for quite a while. I’ve started and been a long-standing member of several writing groups. I earned my MFA. I even edit an e-newsletter for and about writers. They email and call me on the phone.
So what do we end up talking about, more often than not? Who’s writing. Who’s not. How busy we all are. How we wish we had more time. How we wish we had more discipline. Bottom line? Nobody seems to think they’re doing enough.
We whine because we got started too late in life. We whine because we have to work in other fields to support ourselves. We whine because we spend too much time alone, writing. We whine because we don’t spend enough time alone, writing. We whine because we write better than so-and-so, who just got an amazing book deal. Did I mention we whine?
Recently I stood in a room full of writers, right hand raised in the Girl Scout salute, and pledged to spend at least an hour a day, every day, butt in chair, working on my novel, nomatterwhat.
And I did. Right up until the phone call from my home town. Come today. He’s not going to live through the night.
Funny how everything can change in an instant. (Funny strange, not funny ha-ha.) I went. He died. We buried him. I came home.
I realized something I’d forgotten. Life comes in 24-hour segments for everybody. It’s the one truly democratic system I can think of. We get to choose what we do with that time. We can whine and say that others choose for us, but honestly, that’s only because we let them.
Here’s another secret: One day those 24-hour segments will stop for you and me. The one we’re living in right now is the only one we’ve really got to work with. Choose wisely, but then don’t second-guess your choices.
Some days I fall into the keyboard, reveling in the world I’m creating in my novel – a world so real that the characters inhabit both my sleeping and my waking dreams. Some days, I walk past the computer, out the door, into the sunshine, and go for a walk, a bike ride, a swim. Sometimes I wake up at 3 a.m., pulled from sleep by an urgent need to spill hot tears and a bad poem.
Maybe this interlude of profound awareness of the passage of time and the sacredness of each moment’s choices will dull, the way I know from experience that my pain and grief will lessen. For now, what I want to tell each writer, each artist, each human being I encounter is: It’s okay. Really. Be nice to yourself. What you’re doing is enough. You’re enough. And I love you all.
Darlyn Finch is the author of the poetry collections Red Wax Rose and Three Houses. A graduate of Spalding University's MFA program, she is working on her first novel, Sewing Holes. She was a former Kerouac House Project Writer-in-Residence. Find out more at www.darlynfinch.com