What I Know for Sure

Lit by Pat Tyler, 02/04/08

Writing has taught me so many things I've come to know for sure that I can only list them now and hope to expand upon them later:

It is the act of writing that creates writers. It is through the actual, physical act of picking up pen, thinking about something - but not over-thinking it, as a treasured friend suggests - placing pen to paper and immediately writing my reaction to that thought - this is what helps make me a writer. It is through writing - more than through any other creative act - that I have come to know myself, and by eavesdropping on the thoughts and ideas of other writers, I have come to know (and love) them. I have become acquainted with them quickly and intimately through their writing. Often, I don't know where they live or what they do. I don't know if they're rich or poor, god-fearing or atheist. But I do know what they think, how they feel, what they believe, dream of, and endure. And perhaps it is through what they endure that I've come to know them - and love them - best.

The seeds of writerly friendships are sewn and grown in unorthodox ways. In our mundane lives we meet non-writers here and there - perhaps fellow students, business colleagues, members of social clubs and organizations - often making quick, often false judgments about them - sometimes instant judgments based on flash-in-the-pan personal notions that we cannot even explain to ourselves. And perhaps if we're in a situation where polite conversation is required, we might ask where they live, what they do, where they did - or where they do - go to school. BUT we will always mind our manners and never bring up the subjects of race, religion, spirituality, politics, war, abortion, immigration, evolution, reincarnation, or, god forbid! that poor-excuse-of-a-man who now dares to call himself the President of the United States. To discuss any of these would be stepping over the line, disembarking from the social graces. As a result, non-writerly friendships often have lengthy gestation periods, long, painful labors, difficult births, and either very short - or very long-but-difficult lives. An unorthodox writerly friendship grows in a much different way. A recent example comes to mind:

I have written with a small group of men and women for about four years, and when someone sent me an email photo that touched me, one I thought might be of interest to one of the group, I forwarded the photo to her. Her response to what I thought of as an insignificant email astounded me. Through her poignant reply I learned that one of her children had suffered severe health problems as an infant. I learned about the toll it had taken during that heart-wrenching period of her life. In the four years we'd worked together that event had never been discussed. But here's what I came to know of her as she shared her writing during those years: I know that she's sensitive and caring - responsive to others - and responsible. I know that despite the petty annoyances they often present to her - annoyances that I often find amusing as I look in from the outside, I know she loves her husband and adores her children. I know that she's suddenly become a new and frightened member of the sandwich generation, struggling to keep her immediate family intact and well-cared for as she simultaneously struggles to care for elderly parents slipping insidiously - both mentally and physically - from the world they once knew, but can no longer share. And I know - as surely as I know anything for sure - that she will endure. And it is her enduring that inspires me.

These are just some of the many things I have come to know for sure - about one writer. These are not qualities I would have learned about her from a campaign button at a Democratic Rally. These are the things - the important things, the treasured things, the essence-kind-of-things I've learned from her unspoken words as well as from the words she writes so eloquently - and best of all - from the words she's chosen to share.

These are the things that inspire me to love her. And these are the things that make me brave enough, strong enough, comfortable and vulnerable and open and proud enough to be a meat-and-potatoes writer among revered writers.

Now, after writing for years in isolation, I have the gift of many writers in my life. And finally, in my dotage, these are the things I know for sure, because these are the things writing and writers have taught me. And so, I pick up my pen and write again from a place of knowing - and more importantly, from a place of sharing - and most importantly, from my very own place of heart-felt gratitude.

Pat's award-winning non-fiction has appeared in newspapers, magazines, and anthologies nation wide, but fiction is her passion. She is marketing her first novel, The Impossible Promise and working on her second novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses. A passionate Writer, Writing Coach, Editor, and Workshop Facilitator, she is putting together two anthologies, Raised By Rednecks, and Voices From Jail. She conducts Quick Start Writing Workshops for The City of Cotati and the City of Rohnert Park. She also facilitates writing workshops for the incarcerated men and women of the MADF (Main Adult Detention Facility) AKA Sonoma County's downtown jail in Santa Rosa, California.

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