Kindly Create

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.

Comments 2

 
Monika Schott PhD on Wednesday, 22 May 2019 22:59

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 real - is irrelevant. It's what inspires and fuels us that matters, and it can be different today from tomorrow. Congratulations on your upcoming book. :)

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 real - is irrelevant. It's what inspires and fuels us that matters, and it can be different today from tomorrow. Congratulations on your upcoming book. :)
Stephen Evans on Thursday, 23 May 2019 14:27

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 and aware. :)

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 and aware. :)
Already Registered? Login Here
Guest
Saturday, 31 October 2020

Captcha Image

Writing For Life

We are a small, friendly community who value writing as a tool for developing a brighter understanding of the world and humanity. We share our passions and experiences with one another and with a public readership. ‘Guest’ comments are welcome. No login is required. In Social Media we are happy to include interesting articles by other writers on any of the themes below. Enjoy!


Latest Blogs

        On Brighton Beach, the tourists say,         the ice cream vendors come this way, and come and go,           and come and go, on Brighton Be...
      The trees were winking at me this morning.   Or maybe it was morse code.   Tiny brights lights kept going on and off, as if someone was hitting...
          Out of the night that covers me,       Black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be       For my unconquerable soul.  ...

Latest Comments

Rosy Cole The Language of Trees
06 October 2020
But we should not lose hope. Our collective will is enormously powerful and, focused aright, can pea...
Rosy Cole The Language of Trees
05 October 2020
We are listening. I believe ordinary citizens are, but we 're reliant on every nation's government c...
Rosy Cole Invictus
30 August 2020
Loving Shepherd of Thy sheep, Keep Thy lamb, in safety keep; Nothing can Thy power withstand, None c...
Monika Schott PhD Invictus
26 August 2020
Beautiful ?
Monika Schott PhD The three Cs
26 August 2020
True, Rosy. Kindness can change anything; it can soften a heart, arouse a smile, and much more. ?