The Writing Life
by Les Plesko
There is somebody in this room who will become a writer. There’s someone here seduced enough by the vision you see, or think you see, that you’ll keep going. You are the person here who has wanted this all your life.
You’ve spent your time seized by vague longings for a lost world you’ve glimpsed, and you can’t get it out of your head. The feeling is so strong it makes you desperate. Any small sight or smell can set it off. You have carried this seed around like a lump in your throat, or a swelling in your chest. You have felt It rise and thought, “Why not me?” or “I can do this,” but then, perhaps, “life” took over. Yet you always felt your real life was waiting for you somewhere else. You know there’s something you should be doing that’s being neglected, and it is. It’s your writing calling you.
If you follow your heart, if you don’t quit, as most do, because writing is hard, I can tell you what will happen to you. Luckily, you will forget it. Then remember, then forget again.
Writing will break you and mend you. It will tear up your heart, but the heart heals and grows stronger. You will shatter yourself as you now know yourself, and you will welcome the shattering. In the course of the writing you will know exhilaration such as you’ve never known, like the top of your head has come off, and your chest aches, and you’ll weep tears of joy. And tears of grief, and frustration, and a bottomless sinking, but you will forget this when the exhilaration returns. And you will chase this. You will find It again. You’ll say, “Yes, this is why.”
Everything you thought you knew will be proved wrong. Everything you thought was important and necessary will fall away. If you love someone, your love will be tried. It may survive. If you’re looking for love, God forbid, you’ll find it. You will be in danger. You think you’ll die but you may live. You will grasp a new reality only to lose it again, until a newer reality seizes you. You will see the light, then it will fade until another light appears. You will follow the lights down into yourself. You will be broken and you will be recast. You will have a deep and abiding spiritual experience, and then you will lose it and wonder, “Where did it go? What was It I felt?” And you will say to yourself, “Of course I can stop.” And of course you can. Sure, you can stop, but only at the risk of your soul. You’ll know this. So you will risk everything, again. You will be heartsick and afraid, then heart-swollen and fearless. Writing will infect your life until it is your life, and there will be no turning back. You will learn what bravery is. You will be utterly and irrevocably transformed.
You will wonder, “How did I get here?” But you’ll know how. Then you’ll get back to work.