Okay, I’ll cop to it – I’ve used this title before. But that’s only because it’s so true. (And so good!) It also really fits into this week’s blog topic – a person who inspires me.
See, I’ve been really lucky. No one is going to say that being a writer is easy. Even if you end up the kid of a publishing titan with skills and prolificacy to rival Shakespeare and a full marketing team, New York Times reviewer and crack cover designer in your corner, it’s still hard to be a writer. And the fact of the matter is, most of us don’t have that. What we have is drive and determination to tell the stories deep inside us, a passion for creativity, the stick-to-it to edit and edit again and just enough naivety to think that this might actually work.
Which is why I’m lucky. Because writing is hard. Writing alone harder.
I don’t mean that in the writing group, peer-editing, I spend all my time in my office way. I mean that in the I’m not the first person in my family to go through this way.
Because I’m not. Inspiration, to me, comes in many forms. It’s Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. It’s J.K. Rowling and Pablo Picasso and Stephen King. It’s my grandparents, my mom, and my dad.
Grandpa, who passed away this September, was a songwriter, a lyricist who handle words the way that his musicians handle their instruments. He plucked and played with the English language, gently lulling it to his bidding, pushing and prodding until it did as it was told. He wrote funny and he wrote serious. He wrote funny things about serious topics and serious things about funny topics. He researched and researched and researched. We spoke of writing and authors and history up until the last.
Grandma is an artist. Even now, at 87 years old, she continues to paint huge portraits and press prints. She takes photos on her phone, a new-age evolution from the cameras of yesteryear, but brings them home to her studio the same as she always has, from the cemetery, the dog park or the bakery. She spies inspiration everywhere she looks and it has proven a lifetime of success. She had shown me that you can carve a life, a grand career for yourself from your art, and sometimes that’s all the motivation you need.
Dad is a designer and entrepreneur. When his near two-decade-old graphic design firm took a hit with the age of the Internet and the ubiquity of inexpensive and ugly design work, he turned his focus toward a company he loves, pushing every day to make it happen, making calls and sending emails, demanding an audience to make this thing stick. And it will. In dad, I learned the skill of wielding creativity within the lines, of commercial creativity that is not selling out, of clean, neat rows that are never boring, but organized and understood and still so much your own.
In mom, I learned the opposite. A poet, an illustrator and a gardener, mom doesn’t work within the lines of a computerized design program. She lets the wind take hold, lets the little things, like commas and, yes, the lines, fade away, not her problem. She sketches in wide strokes and leaves messes, but she always, always knows exactly what she’s doing.
My family, my tribe, they’ve seen it all before. Every rejection, every writer’s block, every time you wonder if maybe this whole career path is a joke and you’re the only one not in on it. They know, they’ve made it through and they’ve all been successful in their own ways. They understand exactly what it means when I get one of those really tough rejection letters and or when I can’t come down to dinner right away before I’m just in the middle of this scene. They know. They’ve survived it all.
And for that reason, and so, so many more, my family is my inspiration. They are creative, powerful, motivated, passionate people who live and breathe their own art forms as I do. They have made careers from the thing they love, and they have brought me up to believe that I can do the same.
Being a writer is hard. Having them before me, and beside me, makes it just a little bit easier. ♦