Pain. Pleasure. Frost on windows. Grains of sand. A cloud. A look. A too-tight shoe. A remembered slight. A kindness. A paper cut. An amazing meal. A death.

As writers, we owe a duty. To seeing. To feeling. To being. To experiencing as much as we can manage and, sometimes, more.

We are privileged to share what we see, feel, know. Lucky when we do. In writing, we guide the eyes of others. We open windows to other worlds. We conjure the unexpected, and make the familiar unfamiliar. We carry anguish into the light. We offer shoulders to universal sorrows. We try—we hope—to find the Essential Thing. We can’t do it without being there, wholly present, through all of it; ready for the blows and the strokes, the heights and depths.

Any wonder that writers are so mercurial by temperament? Why we’re so tired so much of the time? Being a raw nerve ending is our job description. Opening ourselves to the miraculous and the horrific, equally, is a normal day at the office.

It’s a richer life, this. And a more complex one. For every joy, there is a slam backward; a hundred-hundred hearings of “you think too much” and “why are you so sensitive about everything?” But this is the fuel for our engines. The food of our lives. And we pay for it.

In a duty to wide-open.

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