Not to beat this subject to death, but there are days I wonder if I’m wasting my life, spending all these hours writing. Maybe I should be doing something more constructive, more meaningful, more helpful to society. Something with more tangible results, other than reams of paper filled with words that only a few people actually read.
Maybe I should learn how to cook. My husband would certainly appreciate that. Maybe I should get more involved in spina bifida advocacy. It’s a condition my daughter has to live with for the rest of her life, after all. Maybe I should do more yoga, or learn meditation, or, here we go, train for a marathon. That would be quite an accomplishment. Maybe I should try to find employment that pays more than a cashier job at a supermarket. So I can, you know, actually retire instead of work myself into a pauper’s grave.
Those are all worthy things to pursue. They’re also a lot of “shoulds”, and by now, I’ve learned to be wary of the word “should” in front of anything. But the truth is, my life is cut in into two parts: writing, and everything else. Not that “everything else” isn’t important. My family, my health, and just living life are important, in and of themselves, but they also feed my passion, which is writing. It’s a symbiosis. So yeah, it’s important.
Is it the most important thing in the world? Nope. North Korea won’t stop its belligerent blustering if I threaten to stop writing. ISIS will continue its carnage. Children will still starve in Africa. Donald Trump will continue to exasperate. In the scheme of things, my writing won’t make much of a difference to the world at large.
But in my corner of the world? It sustains me. Satisfies me. Delights me. Sometimes frustrates me. It’s not the end result of the words themselves but the act of writing them in the first place that allows me to continue living in this world in a fairly sane manner. I think that’s why art exists in the first place: to render meaning to the meaningless.
So yes, Mr. Steinbeck, I will hold onto my illusion, even though I know it’s not true. Isn’t that what we all do?