A while ago, I found a TED talk by one of my literary idols, Elizabeth Gilbert. She spoke of her success with her mega-hit memoir Eat, Pray, Love and how she had to deal with success of such magnitude. Of course, I’m paraphrasing, but the point was; she was lost, she was successful, and she didn’t know how to find her way back to writing again.
She wasn’t very successful when she was young—in the talk, Gilbert recounted the experiences when she “failed” over and over again, when she received nothing but years of confidence-crushing rejection letters. But the funny thing was, this newfound success, she said, had felt very similar to that sense of failure, that isolation and uncertainty that came with it. So what did she do, in the aftershock of her Eat, Pray, Love experience? She did exactly what she had done when she was faced with the same uncertainty and turmoil, many years ago; she wrote, and she went home.
Home is what I’d like to talk about here. Elizabeth Gilbert’s definition of “going home”, in this context, meant that she returned to the thing that defined her, and she let go of the expectations that her success brought. She had managed to overcome failure when she was younger because she kept writing despite the rejections, and now she overcame her blinding success because she realized that writing, in spite of everything, was her home. She’d return to it no matter what because she loved it more than she valued her expectations, her fear of failure, her ego. Writing was home for her because she loved it more than she loved herself.
That’s what I’ve been thinking about for this while. What is it that makes me love stories so much? The older I get, I can’t help but think that it’s something more than a childhood full of books and library visits. I sense people like an author would sense a character. When my plane lands down in another city, I crystallize the place in details of the sky, the ground, and the buildings that rise. More than anything, I love stories. I try to catch them the way a raven would try to catch rings and coins.
Writing takes a sort of fierce tenacity to accomplish, especially if you have 10,000 other things going on. I’ve tried to forget writing, many times over. I’ve tried to push it out of my life, but I’ve always felt unmoored as a result. Whether I choose to put words down on paper or not, it will be a part of me. Writing pushes me, irks me, and tires me, but ultimately, it balances me, and it will always be the thing that I inadvertently will return to at the end of the day. I try and fail at it, over and over, but I’ve come to realize that writing is my home.