It was Christmastime, which meant my mother had come to visit, and so my wife, Jen, and I took a couple weeks off from writing. Christmastime also meant lots of football to watch and lots of presents to wrap, and because my mom loved football as much as I did, and because Jen is a superior wrapper, she was in the studio getting a head start on the presents while Mom and I were the living room watching the first half of the Seahawks game.
Halfway through the third quarter my wife appeared looking a little bleary. “You guys going to watch the rest of this game?”
“It’s a close one,” I said. “So, yeah.”
She sighed and made her way back to the studio. I didn’t like that. I believed I knew what her sigh meant, but I only got to watch football with my mom once a year, so I stayed on the couch until the middle of the fourth when the outcome seemed inevitable.
I found Jen in the studio, music blaring, tape and scissors in hand.
“Sorry about that,” I said. “Did you feel like the game was just dominating the house too much? Did you want to watch something?”
“No, I just wanted some human interaction. I’ve been out here so long by myself I’m going a little stir crazy.”
She put down the scissors and killed the music. “You know what’s funny, though? I’m in this studio six days-a-week, four or five hours a day, drawing my pictures, writing my stories, and I never feel lonely or isolated. Yet I’m totally alone.”
“Are you?” I joked.
Most of the students who attend my Fearless Writing Workshops are women, and many of them have or had children, maybe even grandchildren, and most have husbands who sometimes need cooking for or ailing parents that require their care. From them I hear a common concern: that in order to write they must close the door on their family, their loved ones, all of whom have depended on these dependable women for so much for so long.
These aspiring writers feel guilty about the time they take for themselves. They love writing, but they have trouble shaking the feeling that it’s ultimately a selfish act, and if there’s one thing they have never been, it’s selfish.
Their fears are understandable but misguided, and I think Jen perceived why. Like her, I never feel less alone than when I’m writing. I may be physically alone in the room, but I feel connected, listening to that which I have spent the better part of my life trying to hear. I seek this connection in writing, but also in friendship, in marriage, in children, and in watching football with my mom. I seek it always, though I am most aware of finding it when I write, when I can’t pretend that connection can be found outside of me.
I am never a better husband, father, son, friend, or citizen than when I am acting or speaking from that place within me where I go to write. It’s the source of my honesty, dependability, and kindness. In this way, writing is anything but selfish. Rather, it’s like practicing being human.
What’s more the last thing I want to teach all the people I love and care for is that they need me to feel safe and comfortable and loved. They are no different than I, whether they write or not. Where I go to write might feel like it is within me, but it is really a portal to what is available to us all: inspiration, guidance, and finally, faithfully, and always—love.
Learn more in the online workshop, Fearless Writing: