So, it turns out that immediately after I wrote the post about being unsure whether I actually wanted to be as weird and asocial as a writing life would require me to be, I turned to the next chapter in Page After Page, and guess what it was called?
“How to Be Unpopular and Why.”
In it, Sellers talks about her friend Betsy, who is a marathon runner and a writer. Betsy, apparently, does two things: she runs, and she writes. Her husband cooks and runs all the errands. She misses her children’s plays, shows up late to dinner parties, and skips meetings to write. In short, Betsy says “no” a lot to other people, and “yes” to her crafts.
(I don’t like Betsy.
I think Betsy is rude, and selfish, and under-values her relationships.
Betsy will probably be very good at writing and running, though.)
There is something deeper in my instant dislike of this Betsy person– my personal struggle between caring about people and caring about things. When I was in high-school, I was a classic over-achiever. I studied every chance I got, like the time I brought AP US History flashcards to prom. If I wasn’t studying, I was practicing my flute. And woe unto you if you tried to interrupt me.
During this time, mainly when she tried to interrupt me, my mother gave me a lot of sad, pointed looks and said, “People are more important than things.”
Over the years, I’ve taken that to heart. But that saying, in combination with some self-esteem-destroying life episodes, has gotten a little transmuted. “Be kind and attentive to people” turned into “pay more attention to what’s in front of you” turned into “stop trying to be extraordinary” turned into “just be nice and do your laundry.” Most of the time I don’t want to be great at things anymore. And that kind of makes me sad.
The other thing, however, that stuck out to me about this chapter is the concept of training. Athletes train all the time; so do musicians. This training is constantly evolving towards a goal, and it’s sacred– hard work, set apart from other activities, privileged, and maintained. What do I have to do to train to write? Am I willing to embark on a writing training program? (I suppose I’m doing that a bit already with this blog, though the kind of writing that comes far less naturally to me, that would require training, is really just writing about anything but myself.) What is my training goal?