The writer stares at a blank page and dares to share all with the world.
Who else is going to be personal? Who else is going to explain a worst fear, dreaded decision or an unwavering hope? Who is going to uncover emotion?
In a writer’s space, the world learned of Erma Bombeck’s regret, reportedly written after the author found she was dying: “I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for the day.”
My personal regret at the end of life’s journey? Not spending enough time with my children. It’s a fine balance that I sometimes mismanage.
Years ago, I neglected my health to care for them, and subsequently wound up in the hospital. My aunt came to my side and chastised me. ‘You can’t take care of the children if you are down,’ she said. ‘You have to take care of yourself first.’
When I find myself getting sick, I’ll announce it to my children and go to bed. My children take notice and care for me until I am well.
It is during those times that I will read something — a book, a magazine, a devotion — anything that a writer took time to fashion, and I infuse valued lessons into my life.
From a blank page, Maya Angelou taught women about self-esteem: “Does my sassiness upset you/why are you beset with gloom/cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells pumping in my living room.”
From Langston Hughes, I learned about metaphors: “I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.”
From Margaret Walker, I learned the importance of parallelism: “For the cramped bewildered years we went to school to learn to know the reasons why and the answers to and the people who and the places where and the days when…”
Walker was an illustrator, painting a picture of life. But, she has not been the only Walker to assume an illustrator’s duties. For years, I have been fond of Alice Walker, perhaps best known for her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, “The Color Purple.” But, it was her poem, “First, they said,” that I fell in love with many years ago — “Then they said we were immoral. But we knew minimal clothing did not equal immoral. Next, they said our race was inferior. But we knew our mothers and we knew that our race was not inferior.”
As a young child, I didn’t always have a voice. I hadn’t yet discovered who I could be. It was in the escape of books that I often found the best expression of myself. In the world of books, I could travel to places I’d never been; get to know people who were not a part of my life. Even today, the characters remain, just as Katniss Evergreen did after I read the “Hunger Games” trilogy. I remember the sacrifice Katniss was willing to make for her sister.
Even presidential speeches hold writer’s words that uplift the country and shine a light in the darkest times. Franklin Roosevelt declared Dec. 7 1941, the day of the Pearl Harbor attack as “a date which will live in infamy.”
“Kennedy said, “ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”
The canons of history, the blank pages of a writer’s notebook, an empty Word document on a computer screen will continue to capture the voices of those who write, of those who chronicle, not only their lives, but the lives of Family members and of mankind.