Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Scribbler Speaks

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?

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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

21 comments:

Dara Edmondson said...

So sorry about your loss. Life has a way of prioritizing for us sometimes. Thanks for all you do for the writing community of Central Florida.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Dara. The writers of Central Florida have done for me than I can ever repay. But it's fun to try!

Mary Ann said...

"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."

So wise, Darlyn. So often we complain about a lack of time but then spend our time worrying about the past or the future. Thank you for the bittersweet reminder that in this moment, we are just where we need to be with everything we need to make the best of it.

Hugs.

Julie Compton said...

What a lovely post, Darlyn. We all know how important it is to live in the moment, but yet so often we fail to do it. I'm not sure why that is. I do think it gets a bit easier as one ages, though. I find that the older I get, the less I care about participating in the rat race (which I believe is part of what keeps us "out of the moment").

You're a special person and we're lucky to have you here in Orlando. :-)

Rob Walker said...

Darlyn - spot on! I always tell my students you either control time or it will control YOU. It has to do with the one string on the guitar of life we can actually control and play--attitude. And you have plenty of gutsy attitude if I am reading between the lines correctly. Setting a schedule and sticking to it as much as humanly possible and treating it like a job is imperative to producing pages.
Very much enjoyed your post and let me add my condolensces for your loss.

Jim said...

Beautiful and eloquent-- like you. I agree-- there is no past, no future; life is a string of infinitesimal moments speeding by like the rings you try to grab on a carousel. It's all in the grabbing! (Nicely, of course.) Be well, dear friend!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

We all try to forget that death is very much a part of life. We're all mere mortals after all. It's a painful realization, especially when we lose someone we love. For those of us who write, our words allow us to express our emotions, pain and grief. And it's a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Mary Ann, Julie, Rob, Jim and Jacqueline: Have I told you lately how much you all mean to me? Your friendship and wisdom help me through the rough times. Keep writing, brothers and sisters!

Darlyn Finch said...

Ha! Cyber-space smacked me again! That "Anonymous" post was from me, Darlyn Finch, a.k.a. The Scribbler. (Doesn't that sound like a cool villianess in a Batman movie?)

Carol Kilgore said...

Life intervenes. Real life. As important as writing is to all writers, real life trumps every time.

Terry Odell said...

Darlyn, Batman had better watch his back! So glad you're here today.

Maryann Miller said...

What a wonderful, poignant post. I chuckled with the "whining" and cried at the loss. This is an emotional day for me, so your words touched me deeply. Thanks for sharing. I love the fact that we writers can support each other this way even when we have never met face to face.

Happy writing.

Darlyn Finch said...

Well, Carol and Maryann, we know each other now! Thanks for chiming in. I hope the balance of your day is wonderful. Write on!

Mary Ricksen said...

God sage advise Darlyn. Just go with the flow. But never give up.
Good Luck to you and add my thanks to the others. You are gonna be in my mind when I attempt to whine.
Have a good one and another great blog Terry!

Darlyn Finch said...

I'm pleased to be your whining role model, Mary. (Giggle.)

Patricia Stoltey said...

Boy, this post sure hit home. I'm going to stop whining now and go to work. Excellent post, Darlyn. (I'm going to pop over to Twitter first and pass it on to my writer friends).

Jamie Morris said...

Darlyn--

What a lovely post. I think that your own experience speaks tells us exactly the types of "choices" will come along to shift our daily priorities.

One thing I'm noticing in my 50s is that, more clearly than ever, I see that in choosing one thing (even for an hour) I am choosing NOT the other(s).

It makes each moment, in some ways a death--of the thousand uncovered possibilities--and in others, a celebration that I have the power to pick each step that, when I look back, will have created my life.

Wait. Robert Frost had something to say about this, didn't he??

Hugs,
jme

Darlyn Finch said...

Thanks, Patricia and Jamie. Glad you found our visit worthwhile. So true: in choosing one thing (even for an hour) I am choosing NOT the other(s).

Sheila Deeth said...

What a lovely post, and what wise advice. Thank you.

Darlyn Finch said...

Hope it helps, Sheila. Happy writing!

Karla Brandenburg said...

Yes, it's difficult to prioritize, and nothing like a death to remind you that we will run out of time to prioritize, so its important to get it right. My sympathies.