In my last post, I said that people often tell me that they think they should write a book but they just can’t get around to it. They say this as though they feel guilty. I don’t think there is anything to feel guilty about. And in my last post I gave several valid reasons for not writing. This post gives a few more. Here goes:
- If you don’t like solitude, you probably won’t like writing. Although some books have been written collaboratively, generally writing requires a great deal of time spent alone. Some people don’t thrive in such isolation. For extraverts who are energized by interactions with other people, the solitude of writing can feel not only lonely but downright depleting. Being a “people person” is a gift. If you have it, then interacting with people personally might be a better way of serving others than writing is. Something to think about, anyway.
- Another reason for not writing, and especially for putting aside guilt about not writing, is that it may not be the best way to communicate what you want to say. I think especially of older people who want to set down their life story for their children and grandchildren. The well-intentioned grandpa may spend hours and hours, not to mention quite a few dollars, writing and self-publishing a memoir that then is shelved unread on family bookcases. Grandpa is disheartened, but he shouldn’t be surprised–because the people in his family don’t really read much. They may feel badly about not reading those pages and pages that Grandpa wrote, but they don’t actually have the time or the patience for it. However, if Grandpa compiled and annotated a photo collection, they might really enjoy that. They might enjoy it even more if Grandpa sat down with them to look at the photos together. Certainly I am not saying that people should not write their memories of life. Memoirs are valuable. But what other people often need more is personal connection. I think we tend to overestimate the importance of our words on paper and underestimate the importance of our personal interactions.
- But very often the reason people don’t “follow their dream” of writing is that they are attending to pressing needs. I can’t write because I’m too worn out from my job in a hospital emergency room. Or I haven’t been able to write for months because my kids have been sick all winter. Or I’ve been intending to write, but I’m a teacher, and it takes so long to plan good lessons, and my grading inbox is overflowing, and besides that, my students always seemed to need extra help, and—excuse me, my phone is ringing . . .
Remember George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life? He dreamed of leaving Bedford Falls and his tedious, frustrating job at the bank there. He wanted to go do something else, somewhere else. But as he learned, mundane Bedford Falls and its plain, glamorless bank were exactly where he was needed, and all of his life countless people had depending on him to stay there, keep on working, keep on looking out for them, keep on averting disaster, keep on saving the day just by being there when no one else was.
So I say to anyone who has not been writing because they are too busy looking after the sick, or teaching children, or keeping a business from going under, or feeding their family, or listening to the broken-hearted, or loving their neighbor . . . THANK YOU.