When my students were studying American Philosophy I was trying to teach them about priorities and consequences before setting them off to read the thoughts of the great American thinkers of the mid-1800s. I didn’t want them thinking that by having them read Thoreau and Emerson that I was advocating that they drop out of high school to live in the forest. As I attempted to illuminate my point better with concrete examples taken from my own life, I shared bits of my high school dreams. Many of them lay shattered as distant memories. They filled up many journals that I’m sure I could find if I dug deep enough. Anyway, in my reverie I recounted that when reading about Transcendentalists and Existentialists, I pictured myself becoming a writer secluded in some sort of wooden oasis. Obviously this wooden oasis would be finely furnished with the most beautiful hand carved writing desk and plush reading chairs. I would have a fully stocked kitchen with all of the finest appliances so that when my writer munchies hit I would be prepared. Apparently I wasn’t completely in line with the ideals of Henry David Thoreau, but it seemed close enough. As I shared my fantasy with my class, one student raised his hand and asked me a question that I can’t seem to shake out of my mind: “What would you write about?”
Back then I would have automatically answered romance. I was in love with the idea of love. I still recognize the importance of love but I don’t think I fall into it quite as easily as I did back then. I’m more weathered by the pain of lost love. I don’t fall for silly theatrics as easily. I suppose some might say that I’ve become more practical. But I still do have a longing to write. And so the question still lingers: what am I supposed to write about? For a while I filled this blog up with reviews. I talked about the inspirations that other people penned. And I still plan to do that because consuming media: books, short stories, poems, movies, television … I still find immense value in doing that. But when I finally get around to writing my novel, my masterpiece, my inspiring words … what will they be about?
I can’t help but think about all the writing advice I have accumulated over the years: great writers write what they know; good writers steal, great writers borrow, ect. Are my writing underachievements due to the fact that I haven’t experienced enough? Have I not read enough? Have I changed so much that writing doesn’t register in the high priority zone anymore? All of these possibilities have worriedly been crossing my mind lately. I’ve been consuming mind numbing video games and movies instead of focusing on what really matters.
And then that’s when it hit me. I want to write about what really matters. When I write my book, it will be difficult to place in one genre because it will cover a smattering of different issues. I’ll write about love, family, priorities, consequences, finding yourself in a world that doesn’t always make sense. My book will be about life. I will write about the truths that I have managed to uncover thus far. I’ll find a way to articulate in a fictional character not yet named what matters to me. And although I haven’t fully figured all of those details out yet, I’m working on it. I’m still a work in progress so why shouldn’t my writing still be a bit of a work in progress?
So my teenage dreams of living in the forest and devoting my life to writing haven’t materialized. I found that my priorities changed and the consequences of certain actions led me down a different path that I originally anticipated. I adapted and I find myself feeling pretty content with where I am now. I have somehow acquired my new dream job: teaching at my alma mater. I live in a cozy little apartment with the love of my life. I’m creating a life for myself based on the realities of life. And that keeps me tethered. It keeps me humble. It ensures that I am blessed with treasures I didn’t even know existed. And so my writing purposes have changed a bit. But the most important thing is that I still do have a writing purpose and so I better keep on writing.
© 2012, Jennifer Lesnick. All rights reserved.