NPR interview. Could have been me. Sounded like me. The writer’s struggle between the demands of life and the life of the page. The challenge of human relationships in a headspace where the art is all.
One of the most telling comments was in answer to the question about how the writer dealt with comments from those folks closest to her who read her work. Her husband, a writer, was the person whose involvement promised to be the most challenging. “You want people to be honest about the work,” she answered; “…to be honest and love it.”
A number of the readers with whom this writer shares her work understand that abiding need. A few do not. Some, like dear, wonderful friend Kay (who is reading for the first time) have the thoughtful good sense to ask how the writer wants them to respond; what sort of response would be the most useful. Others have the lovely consideration to tickle one’s vanity in harmless ways, knowing how much certain types of sharing mean. Some say exactly the wrong things. But they mean well.
Such foolish creatures, we writers are—like children presenting handmade valentines to beloved teachers. We want people to read. We want them to like what they read. Overly sensitive wretches we are, who listen too hard to what is said to us, interpret it too critically and react too strongly.
When we receive half the reaction we hoped for our pique fills the sky.
Sometimes we find distance and balance in what we hear and how we react. But not often. Our reactions are as unguarded, unreliable and uncontrollable as our tenuous relationships with life.
Our lives come complete with moments of fear. Some of those moments approach terror…realizations that real life is not what we think it is, what we want, what we know, what we’re comfortable with. The standing-outside-ourselves that casts a hard, harsh light on a spare, inward, dedicated, isolated existence.
A life of the mind is such that the outside world can be stark and ugly in comparison. Sometimes, we don’t hear the answer we want. Sometimes, we don’t even hear it from ourselves.