How Much is Creativity Worth?April 27, 2012
A Room With a ViewJune 9, 2012
I know I’ve been a bad blogger lately, but I have a good excuse—several, actually. After suffering for 3 1/2 years with the aftermath of a poorly done knee-replacement surgery, my mother just had arthroscopic surgery on that same knee two weeks ago, and since then I’ve been playing the role of nursemaid/cook/gal Friday, helping to take care of her and Dad as she recovers. (I’m not complaining—it’s been worth every minute of stress to see her do so well—knock on wood, toi toi toi…)
Simultaneously, I’ve been trying to keep up with my regular paid writing work and other obligations as well as revising my novel. Also, several of my friends who live in far-flung locations (Spain, Portland, Los Angeles…) have been passing through NYC for work trips, so I have happily rejiggered my schedule to see them. Given these and other commitments, plus the annoying spring cold I caught, I hope you’ll understand why blogging has been the first thing to go. To paraphrase the great Regis Philbin, “I’m only one person.”
I did, however, want to share with you a moment of recognition I had several days ago. New York magazine just ran a great piece about one of my heroes: Toni Morrison. It’s no exaggeration to say that reading her novel The Bluest Eye in college changed my life. Almost instantly, I went from vacillating about what subject to major in—among the choices: political science, English lit, history, and chemistry (yes, chemistry—I can’t explain it now either)—to utter certainty that studying and writing about literature was the way to go.
I wrote my senior thesis on the creation of identity in Morrison’s Song of Solomon, Sula, and Tar Baby, and I was even fortunate enough to meet with her when she joined Princeton’s creative writing faculty during my senior year (though, stupidly, I was too intimidated to take a creative writing class with her). In her work, I saw magic, and not just the magical realism kind. I saw the way that writing could move people, change their perspective on life, and open up new worlds.
And once again, Ms. Morrison has provided me with one of those rare “a-ha” moments we’re allotted in our lives. In the excellent New York profile of her, she describes how writing is a solace: “All of my life is doing something for somebody else. Whether I’m being a good daughter, a good mother, a good wife, a good lover, a good teacher—and that’s all that. The only thing I do for me is writing. That’s really the free place where I don’t have to answer.”
Though I would never in a million years presume to compare myself to Toni Morrison, I see myself in that description. Once again, she’s made me realize how important writing is to me. Frankly, the word “important” is too banal to capture what I truly feel on the subject. Writing is an inextricable part of me; without it, I wouldn’t be myself. Whether it’s tending to my parents or dealing with whatever curve balls are thrown at me, the one constant and reaffirming source of wholeness in my life is the time I spend stringing words together on my laptop.
On this beautiful spring day, my sincerest wish for all of you is that amid the daily insanity of human existence you have found something—be it your paying job, a hobby, or something else—that makes you feel this way. May you all have some free place where you don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself.