I remember sitting in a college class years ago and discussing what it takes to be a writer. The discussion eventually turned to the personality needed to be a writer. It was an interesting conversation -- the class immediately felt we had one major thing in common. At one point the professor stated that different people gravitate to different things because of their personality. It made sense to me. She then went on to add that all artists, be it writers, singers, actors, performers (the list goes on) have a "knack for seeing pain" and have a "bizarre sense of awareness." We made jokes about how we'd one day all be in therapy and on medication.
The truth is that as I get older I understand more of what that professor was trying to tell us. We were the kids who found an outlet at some point in our childhood -- we discovered the "art" (if you will) of writing. When I was little I would make up stories and tell them to my friends. I discovered that they loved these stories. Eventually the storytelling was put to paper and the writing began. I loved it. I always tell people that I'm not a good writer, just a good storyteller. When I was in high school my father told me that I had "an amazing talent" and that he was "very proud" of me. I will never forget that moment.
I took a graduate class on childrens literature and the professor walked into class one day and started talking about how writing makes you feel like you have so much power -- creating worlds and characters and controlling them. She paused and then said, "You get caught up in the writing and when you're finished you return to reality and that is the downside to writing." We all sat there silently. She walked to the front of the podium and she said, "You're talented enough to create things. You're observant and notice more than most people and you are extremely aware of the world around you -- of the pain and darkness of the world around you." She gave a sarcastic laugh and then said, "No matter how great of a writer you are -- in the end you return to reality and guess what folks, reality can't be changed." I remember watching her and feeling sorry for her as she grabbed her briefcase and walked out of the room. I was pregnant and Jacob and I were getting ready to begin a new chapter in our lives. I walked away assuming she was bitter because she wasn't published or maybe she was just having a bad day. To this day her words stay with me. I watch my oldest son struggle with things other children his age have no trouble doing. I see people I love fighting. I learn of children who have no food at home and watch kids shove each other and call each other names. I hear people I love hurting and crying and there is nothing I can do to change their situation -- their reality.
Now that I am in my 30s I realize that my professor was right -- We can create things but we can't change reality. Ironically, if the world wasn't cruel and harsh what would writers write about? If we lived in a cotton and bubble gum world where we were always happy and nothing ever went wrong how would we have anything to write about? What would singers sing about? What plays or movies would actors perform in if there wasn't pain in this world? Reality is what makes writing so special and it's what gives us something to write about. We can't change reality, but we can write about it!