It’s incredibly difficult to be next in line the day after what Julia’s posted yesterday.
I was casting around for a lead into this week’s blog and remembered a (perhaps apocryphal) story of a middle-aged woman in England during World War II. The woman volunteered at a military convalescent hospital. She had been assigned to the patients’ library with the task of gluing cardboard covers onto paperback books to make them last longer.
A British general came around to jolly along the patients and staff. When he and the hospital commandant reached the library, the general commended the woman for how straight she was gluing on the covers and said jovially, “Maybe one day you’ll write a book yourself, eh what?”
“Maybe one day I will,” the woman replied.
In the background, the hospital commandant was close to apoplexy. You’re probably ahead of me on this. The woman was, of course, Agatha Christie.
I’m sure soldiers in that hospital appreciated the sturdy book covers. They might even have noticed that they were glued on straight. But I also know that the books Christie wrote have comforted a lot more people in a lot more difficult situations. There is a statistical probability that someone in a Fukushima Prefecture shelter is reading one of her books right now.
We forget sometimes what wonderful rare birds we are as authors. Meaning no disrespect to anyone who hasn’t crossed the line yet, we also forget that we are more wonderful and rarer as published authors. We lose sight of that because we live shoulder-to-shoulder with other writers.
Public use photo from the Tazzone.
Pick your favorite public venue. I’ve chosen the Scotiabank Saddledome. Scotiabank is obviously a bank and the Saddledome is where the Calgary Flames play hockey. Imagine the Saddledome tomorrow night, 7:30 PM. Flames versus the Anaheim Ducks. Seating capacity, a little over 19,000, and since it’s near the end of the season, most of those seats will be filled. The majority of those 19,000 people not only don’t know anyone who has written and published a book, but never in their lives have known a published author, and never expect to.
There is more relief needed in the world all the time and I fear it’s going to get worse. Whatever else we choose to do in our other life: contributing to charities; doing volunteer work; working for peace, social, economic or ecological justice, the most important thing we can do every day is to sit down and write.
Lots of people can do rescue work. Lots of people can staff shelters. Lots of people can clean up gosh-awful messes. But writers are among the few who can tell stories that mobilize, that entertain, and that comfort. We may not think about it very often, but writers are those rare birds in the business of hope.
Goodness knows that the world needs more of that.
Quote for the week:
There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.
~Dame Agatha Christie, DBE (1890 – 1976)