Saturday, November 17, 2012


Praxiteles' perfect realism!

Have you ever looked back over your life to trace the course which made you into the person you are?  I think reminding ourselves of that course can be really helpful – a rejuvenation when energy or inspiration is hard to find. 

Most people have something they do which they really love. This passion perhaps is born with them, but in seed form, and then based on their development in life, it changes and adapts to their personality.  Don’t you think that’s the explanation for why the geniuses of the world are all so individual?  You wouldn’t think that Michelangelo and Praxiteles could be so different, since they’re both working with marble and mythical subjects, and yet they are instantly distinguishable. 

Perhaps because I’m a writer who worries about creating realistic personalities and backgrounds for my characters, I find myself also fascinated by the development of the real people around me.  No matter how amazing a character may be, your next door neighbor is probably more amazing (though perhaps also more frustrating, alas!). So I like to talk to people and slowly discover what things in their past directed them to their present state and gave them their present passions. 

Michelangelo's superhuman intensity!
I also like to look back over my past and do the same.  Lately, since I’ve been feeling jaded about teaching, I’ve been devoting some particular thought to whether I made the right choices in my work. Of course this always leads to the question, ‘How does it affect my writing?’

Writing is my passion, after all, just like couture may be someone else’s or even fishing, or some similar hobby.  In order to gauge our quality of life, we have to judge two things, I think.  First, how well we held up our side of our relationships with others. Second, how well we balanced the passion and talent which help make us uniquely ourselves.  If relationships and our life’s dream happen to go hand-in-hand, all the better.

I think my life as a writer began when I learned how to read.  Within a year or two of that, I was telling myself stories to put myself to sleep, and writing little newspapers to give to my family.  I was also a voracious reader.  By age thirteen or fourteen, when I first decided consciously that writing was my vocation, I had also devoured countless piles of books.  I wanted to create more of the stories which I loved to read. 

Turning myself into an author also became my motivation to do well in school, since I figured every essay was a chance to practice my skills. College only added a new dimension, because the philosophy I studied in tandem with literature was grounded in Personalism – the idea that only through generously opening and offering the self to others do we fully realize ourselves.  Giving stories to the world seemed my way to accomplish this.

I don’t think I’m the only person who can look at their life and see such a pattern emerging, pushing them toward the fulfillment of their passion.  However, what intrigues me is just how different the factors are which individualize the way we each pursue it.  For some, an unfulfilling job may finally drive them to seek satisfaction somewhere else.  For others, a perceptive parent may help direct them from youth into their best path.  It’s fascinating. 

Sometimes it's good to look back at where we came from...
Anyway, the latest stage in my life is teaching, but currently it’s frustrating me.  50% of my classes are in the middle school range.  I can’t express how challenging it can be to retain peace of mind while teaching 22 thirteen-year-old girls.  So sometimes I think to myself, ‘Should I throw all this in the air and run off to become a librarian?’

Well, eventually I may decide to switch careers, but I have to finish out the school year before anything, so I might as well figure out a way to maintain equanimity. I’ve been thinking about how teaching and writing should mesh. Sometimes, after all, they cancel each other out, and I don’t get any writing done because I’m grading, or I don’t grade at all, because I said, ‘Heck with it, today I’m writing poetry.’ 

But I think underneath it all, they are compatible.  Practically speaking, teaching is a comparatively high free-time job, and so I have freedom to pursue writing.  However, on a more ideological level, teaching gives me the continual exposure to other people which I personally need.  From my interactions and experiences I create stores from which my characters take their life.  Few other jobs would give me such a treasure.  Granted, I may feel frustrated, but even then I’m growing as a person and a writer. 

So if you stop by this blog, tell me…what process was it that awoke your chief passion?  Was it subtle and slow, or a sudden revelation?  In either case, what do you find gives you a way to keep going when other elements in your life cause conflict in pursuing your dreams?  I’d be delighted to learn your methods. 

1 comment:

  1. Excellent questions. I've always done a mix of what I needed to do and wanted to do. When you need to eat and pay rent you need to have a job, whether you like it or not. While I feel like I've always written, mostly as an escape as well as a form of expression, which I've really only recently started sharing...(but that's another story). I never thought I could rely on it to pay for life's essentials. While I have sparsely and randomly been published - it has not been professionally. Not one penny. So perhaps writing is a creative passion? I think my muse never sleeps...I seem to be able to write pretty much about anything poetically. And now that I've found the 'net' and some writing prompt sites...well I could sit and write all day. But then I'd never do laundry or find the kitchen sink... Maybe one day I'll be able to pay someone else to do those jobs. But frankly sometimes it is good to take a break and distract myself :)