Little islands

May 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?

It’s true.

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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  1. This is a beautiful post – thanks for sharing it! Finding a community of writers at AW has been one of the best and most rewarding parts of being a writer, at least for me. Honestly, there’s no better feeling than giving someone a critique or an idea and hearing that it helped them improve their writing.

  2. Beautiful is definitely the word. I am not aware of any writer’s groups in my area but I bet they are out there. I need to get more involved.

  3. How true is this? We get so caught up in writing, deadlines, revisions, etc that we forget there’s another world outside our heads…like, say, husbands. Ironically enough, I signed up to be a volunteer for Free Arts AZ. The next 20 week orientation starts in August and I’m really looking forward to “being part of my community.” Well, at least the part that deals with at-risk youth.

    • Haha, yeah – every once in a while I have to drag myself out of my WIP and say, “Oh yeah, my boyfriend wants to go have dinner.” I’m definitely doing better this year than I have in the past, though. :) And anyway, if you’re not living your life, what is there to write about anyway?

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