Stephen Evans

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Stephen is a playwright and author of The Marriage of True Minds and A Transcendental Journey.

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In the movie version of Harvey, the character of Elwood P. Dowd says, “Years ago my mother used to say to me... She’d say, ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be’—she always called me Elwood—‘in this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

I do, obviously. It is one of my favorite lines in one of my favorite films. I don’t see six-foot-tall rabbits (or none I’m admitting to). But sometimes I think that something like his transformation may have happened to me. For years, I was smart, but being smart didn’t make me a writer.

Twenty years ago, I decided I was supposed to be a writer. I thought about writing. I read books about writing. But I wasn’t actually doing any writing.

So, feeling the years slipping by, I quit my job and headed out across the country, intending to write a book. Yet mile after mile, I wrote nothing, except a few emails about the amazing scenery and how often I got lost. Eventually, I gave up and turned toward home.

A thousand miles or so later, a butterfly got caught in my windshield wipers. I slowed down and got off the highway at the next opportunity, coaxed the little guy onto a sheet of (blank, no doubt) paper, and set him onto a patch of grass near some woods. He couldn’t fly anymore, but he could walk. I watched each slow, painstaking step until he disappeared into the brush. Then I got back in my car and on the highway.

Moments later, a poem came to me about the butterfly. Quickly, I dictated the words into my recorder. It wasn’t great poetry. But it was the first creative writing I had done in a long time.

That night, I sat at a desk in my hotel room and began to write. I didn’t stop until I had finished the entire first act of a play, and then, over the next few years, finally a book about that trip:  A Transcendental Journey.

Since I wrote A Transcendental Journey, so much of my life has revolved around taking care of family—a time that has also been the most creative of my life. I think there is a connection.

I began The Marriage of True Minds, my first novel, while I was taking care of my aunt Margaret, to whom it is dedicated. I edited the novel while staying with my friend Don in what turned out to be the last months of his life. The final piece of the story was based on the eulogy I wrote for my brother Michael.

A few years later, when both of my parents were diagnosed with health issues, I moved in to take care of them. My writing during those years consisted mostly of short pieces. But I think it is some of my best work.

After my parents passed away, I was lucky to be able to take some time off. I thought I needed it—needed to get back to being the person I used to be. I never did. I don’t think now I will. And I wouldn’t choose to if I could, as a man or as a writer.

In a year, I wrote drafts of two books, plus half of a third. Two were published this year: The Island of Always, an extension of The Marriage of True Minds, and Painting Sunsets, a story for young artists. The third book comes out next month.

I don’t really like the word caregiving: it is too one-sided. Caring for someone is a shared experience, often both deeply rewarding and deeply draining. But in each case in my life, I feel that some reflection of that shared experience, and of the person I shared it with, has gone into the work.

As a writer, my instinct is to wrap myself up in a solitary world—to live in the one I am creating. But I have realized that what works for me may be the opposite: turn out, see the world, do what needs to be done for the people in your life. And as you do, trust that the wheels are turning in your creative spirit.

Caring is the wildest fuel for the writing fire.

You may quote me.

A version of this piece first appeared in Publishers Weekly.

Recent Comments
Monika Schott
It's a wonderful thing to be able to find a way that helps us create, whether we live in or between two worlds - our creative and ... Read More
Wednesday, 22 May 2019 22:59
Stephen Evans
Thank you! It amazes me sometimes that inspiration can be found where I would never expect it. I guess we just try to be awake an... Read More
Thursday, 23 May 2019 14:27
60 Hits
2 Comments

The Blue Cap

She wears a dark blue raincoat on this cloudy day, and a lighter blue cap, something out of the sixties. I can imagine her then, a young woman, wearing one to a party, dazzling with her golden hair and brilliant smile, charming them all.

Now her hair is white. And white tennis shoes. Always the white shoes.

And alone. Always alone. Except for the dog.

Her dog is smallish and also white, like most of the dogs in this community. For some reason, they are the canine of choice, maybe because they don’t eat much or fit just so on an eighty-year old lap.

As she walks, she sways side to side. Maybe her hips don’t work as they used to or she is shielding her knees. Still she walks. Twice a day. Every day. At a good pace relatively. Holding tight to the leash. As though something about it keeps her upright.

I walk past her and smile, saying Good Afternoon. She doesn’t seem to recognize me, though we have passed a few times before. Her face brightens and she smiles, but she doesn’t speak back. Unused now to speaking to anyone, except her children on the phone every few weeks.

She is alone. Always alone. Except for the dog, who is now the beneficiary of all the love and care she has stored up since her husband passed.

So she walks every day. Rain or shine. In peril of falling every step it seems to me. I worry for her.

She is alone. Yet there are many like her here in this community. She passes them every day. They have never spoken yet they know each other.

As she passes me, I turn and watch for a second.

Maybe this is not her story. Maybe she has a family close to her, who visit most days, like my next door neighbor. Maybe her husband does the laundry and she walks the dog for exercise. I don’t really know.

But as I imagine her, she is a reminder.

And a warning.

And an inspiration.

I will find my blue cap.

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
Such humanity and empathy here. Clear and natural as a mountain stream. This lady is no member of a cardboard crowd. If only we al... Read More
Saturday, 04 May 2019 15:40
Stephen Evans
Thank you Rosy! Yes, I agree - just just a few moments pause each day - for awareness. Like everyone else I find it hard to rise... Read More
Saturday, 04 May 2019 22:13
Ken Hartke
There is something to be gained by living in a walkable community. I really don't -- I would have to walk four miles to a store -... Read More
Saturday, 04 May 2019 17:50
1050 Hits
4 Comments

A Recipe for Comfort

Constant Comment tea.

The Christmas mug with the nearly faded snow man. 

A splash of milk.

A teaspoon of superfine granulated sugar.

A sip.

And peace descends.

Recent Comments
Stephen Evans
It was my mother's favorite too! and one of mine. The scent when I unwrap the foil package is almost better than the tea. And bri... Read More
Saturday, 02 March 2019 21:41
Rosy Cole
I don't think we have it in the UK, at least not in regular stores, maybe in specialist ones. I note it's available online at Amaz... Read More
Sunday, 03 March 2019 23:01
Stephen Evans
It is for me what a madeleine was for Proust. Just don't expect a 4000 page novel.
Monday, 04 March 2019 01:46
627 Hits
6 Comments

The Countless Other Infinitesimals

“The happiness of life is made up of minute fractions,—the little, soon-forgotten charities of a kiss, a smile, a kind look, a heartfelt compliment in the disguise of a playful raillery, and the countless other infinitesimals of pleasant thought and feeling.”  

― Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
Hallelujah! Coleridge's thoughts (and yours!) are so much clearer than Emerson's who has a habit of obfuscating his own point. I s... Read More
Monday, 18 February 2019 12:09
Stephen Evans
I came across this in one of Jan Karon's Mitford books, so I can't say I really stuck with Coleridge. The Biographia Literaria wa... Read More
Monday, 18 February 2019 15:01
229 Hits
2 Comments

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