“She celebrated frustration by clapping her hands.”
When I read this line last, it gave me pause. Not figuratively. I actually stopped, put down the book, and pondered this line for a moment. Reading that line, I realized why I am not a paid writer.
The line is from Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. I swear I am almost done with the book and will soon be quoting someone else repeatedly.
When I read the line, I paused because the wording perfectly informed me, the reader, about the level of frustration of the character. But the words had style. A style I would have never thought of. I would have written something bland like “She was so frustrated she slammed her palms on the table” or “Her frustration was skyrocketing.” It would never occur to me to put together the words “celebrated frustration by clapping her hands.” Gorgeous, just gorgeous.
I recently read another blogger’s post about composing an author’s mission statement.
The idea of writing a mission statement appealed to me, not because I have intentions of being a professional writer, but because I think there is insight to be gained from clarifying my actions. In reading the post by Mr. Sanchez, I realized the writing gig is serious to him. He said it in his statement “I write because there is nothing else I’d rather be doing….” I respect his passion and dedication, but I find my reasons for writing differ from his. I began to ponder what my mission statement would be, why do I write, especially if I do not believe I will be published outside of self publishing.
I write as a means of chronicling my life. I have been writing in this format since I first learned to hold a pencil, filling diaries and journals, sending letters to friends.
I write to muddle through the influx of emotions and arrive at some greater truth. My brain does not shut off easily. The wheels are constantly spinning, analyzing, obsessing. In order to gain clarity, I put pen to paper- well, fingers to keyboard. It is a means of organizing my thoughts and determining what message my inner voice is trying to tell me.
I write to connect with people. In reflecting on writing, this truth is the biggest surprise to me. I never read blogs before I was a blogger. In some misguided way, I thought it was narcissistic to assume people would be compelled to listen to what I have to say. I started blogging as a means to organize various projects in a single location. As I started writing daily, my rants clearly became the focus of my blog.
I would bump into friends at gatherings, and they would tell me how much they enjoyed my writing. At first, I thought they were being polite and complimentary. But then it kept happening. People would talk to me about specific pieces. I gained a few followers that were not friends or relatives, but actual strangers with no emotional obligation to read my rants. It was beyond flattering, but more than that, it made me feel needed. Somewhere in my words, people found comfort or laughs or sympathy.
After the birth of my second child, I experienced a forced isolation. I always seemed to have one child napping, making it very difficult to leave the house. I had almost no free time, but I forced myself to write a letter a day- a lifeline to the world outside my little home. Whenever I received a response back, my day got brighter. I felt excitement seeing it in the mailbox, anticipation waiting to read it as I walked back into the house, connected as I got a glimpse into what was going on in the sender’s world. I don’t know of the people who wrote me understand how important their letters were. The link I felt through their words helped me make it through a very challenging time, and it inspired me to write beyond sending letters. Every time I post on my blog, I have that hope that maybe I am the link for someone else.
I write to improve at being a writer. This past year, I took the first steps towards publishing a children’s book. Of course, there are so many writers and so few opportunities to be published, that getting paid to write is a lofty dream. I still think the manuscript and illustrations are unique and could be worthy of publishing. But I couldn’t get past the query letter. How good was I as a writer if I couldn’t write a letter describing my work? I’m not giving up, but I have a lot left to learn.
Slaughterhouse Five was published when Kurt Vonnegut was 47 years old. I just turned 38. Maybe, just maybe, if I keep writing, keep learning, and keep plugging along, there is hope for me yet.