aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

Who say's you're a writer?

From "A Three Dog Life" by Abigail Thomas, a slender and moving book about her experiences after her husband suffers a traumatic brain injury, losing his ability to keep a memory. It's ironic that her book about her most terrible, personal loss is her most successful. (Full disclosure: I don't think you need great pain to create great art. On the other hand, I think that writing may be a blessing because sometimes from great pain can come great art.) She writes:

"I didn't start writing until I was 47. I had always wanted to write but thought you needed a degree, or membership in a club no one had asked me to join. I thought God had to touch you on the forehead, I thought you needed to have something specific to say, something important, and I thought you needed all that laid out from the git-go. It was a long time before I realized that you don't have to start to write, you just have to start. Put pen to paper, allow yourself the freedom to write badly, to get it wrong, stop looking over your own shoulder. You idiot, I would say to myself after half a page. What makes you think you can write, and then I'd crumple it up and aim for the wastebasket. Then one day somebody told me a story about a daughter at her mother's funeral, and something in the story caught in my mind and wouldn't let go of me. I tried to write it and failed, but instead of throwing it away (you idiot, give it up), I tried again, from a different angle. I realized I had been imitating the voice of the woman who told me the story, but it didn't ring true coming from me. I decided to make the funeral my own, and to imagine one of my daughters as the narrator, and after three hours I had three pages that I actually liked. I was off and running. For the first time a story was more important than my ego, and the know-it-all voice that told me not to bother held no sway."

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