The Best Job in the World

There's a purpose behind what we writers do. Let's not lose sight of it. |

When I'm good and happy with my writing project, when I've had a solid two weeks of decent output, regular insights, normalish emotions, then I'm ready to put a cherry on top of everything and declare writing the best job in the world.

I mean, it is, right? (Especially if we've been practicing delight.)

We're so lucky. Our job means that we can fill to the brim with the beauty of words and the transcendence of narrative. We learn from all the great writers: we get to read and taste and mimic.

And at the end of the day, all our days, we are making more books. More shared ideas. More fascinating characters. We're supplying textbooks for living. For ourselves and our fellow humans.

In his wonderful book On Writing, Stephen King says that writing is "telepathy, of course." 

Because when something is described by the writer on the page, and then received by the reader:  Welp, telepathy is exactly that that is. King writes:

"This is what we're looking at, and we all see it. I didn't tell you. You didn't ask me. I never opened my mouth and you never opened yours. We're not even in the same year together, let alone the same room . . . except we are together. We're close. We're having a meeting of the minds."

Um... I LOVE THAT. A meeting of the minds.

Writing is telepathy. And more than that: Stephen King wrote those words in Maine, in 1997. I'm typing them here, at a suburb of St. Louis in 2015, at my huge black desk (strewn with five separate beverages; four open books with more on the floor; a positive cascade of notes on scraps of paper; dozens of writing instruments; a lamp; a partially buried paperweight).

And then you're reading it, wherever you are...

So it's telepathy. And kinda teleportation. And time travel too.

Words can go anywhere: they have no borders, not really, not anymore. We writers have long arms, hands that can reach anywhere, that can reach forward in time--who knows how far? 

And what's in those hands?

Books. Words. Stories. Ideas. Dialogue. Characters. Images. 

People will read what we've written, and they'll look up in surprise and say, That's me. This person is writing about me. I'm seeing myself in this story.

They'll read our pages and say: Someone understands. Someone else has been there. Someone gets it.

We're giving courage to other people. Courage to face their own days, courage to go forward. Through our words, we get to hold hands with people who are suffering. People in need. 

We're giving them what we have--the best we have. 

We have the best job in the world. And it isn't writing, not really, not exactly. 

The best thing is to love other people. 

To reach out, to hold hands, to stay connected, to be humans, to talk about living.

To give courage, insight, guidance. To say, Yes! Do that! Go! Or to say, No, don't go that way, please, you'll regret it.

As writers, we are both the Listeners and the Speakers. And through all our words, we're communicating love, essentially.

Is that weird to say?

Here, if the word love creeps you out, read this quote, from William Faulkner's Nobel Prize acceptance speech:

"It is [the writer's] privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail."

Right? Right??? THAT.

The best job in the world. Giving other people what they need. Spending our time and energy to meet those needs.

Our medium happens to be words--stories, characters, images, conflict. We happen to be dealing with tales and novels and fiction.

"Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell Gregory a story. Make some light." -- Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux

The real job, the best job, is reaching other people. Lifting their hearts. Bringing light.