Little islandsMay 7, 2009 at 8:31 PM | Posted in Authors, Life, Writing, Writing Advice, YA | 4 Comments
Since I read Madeleine L’Engle’s A Ring of Endless Light when I was ten, I have been religiously quoting John Donne. “No man is an island!” I say, and I automatically get brownie points with teachers. “No man is an island,” and my sister gives me that blank goldfish stare. “No man is an island, Mom!” and she rolls her eyes and tells me that I read too much.
But you know what I realized today?
Tonight my friend invited me to a poetry reading given by her and her writing group. We live in a small town, and as my friend laughingly admitted, “This wasn’t very well publicized.” And it wasn’t. There were only a handful of family members in that room, munching on chips and salsa while their nieces and sons and cousins recited poetry. But my friend was genuinely happy to see me, happy that I took time out of my day to watch some incredibly talented kids read their essays and poems. And while I was sitting there, something occurred to me.
This is what life is about.
I think we, as writers, are more prone than others to become “islands.” We justify our loneliness as hard work and determination. “We are WRITERS,” we say. “We’re working on the next great American novel! We’re finishing up our short story anthology! We’re trying to become the next J. K. Rowling, dang it!”
Guess what? It’s not all about that.
Sometimes it’s about giving back. Going to a poetry reading to support local writers in your area. Taking time to critique a friend’s manuscript. Encouraging a kid’s dream even when no one else thinks he’s got it in him.
You’re not an island. You’re a human being. You’re part of a community of human beings that is full of dreams and passions and beautiful gifts to give. Don’t isolate yourself by saying, “I’m too busy for community. I’m trying to get published.” Publication will send a book out into the world. But generosity and love? That will produce life.
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