Bi-weekly chatter about how looking closely at some of the most common expressions in everyday life can prompt new ways of thinking about our writing.
My family knows it. My friends do, too. And I alert my students of this personality quirk usually around the end of the semester, as we are nearing the last class.
I’m not good at goodbyes.
I know it’s not really a word on the street, which means I am veering away slightly from my topic. It’s more like a phrase that fits the bill for some people and not others (I’d love to know the secret for the latter group.) But, since this is my last column for Write or Die Magazine and I am a self-proclaimed bad goodbye giver, I decided to broadly interpret the original purpose of my bi-weekly conversation on the page and stretch the rules a bit.
Speaking of conversation and goodbyes, maybe this is part of what brings me to the page: using words to grapple with ideas, people and emotions by holding on, by not letting go. That’s a little dramatic, I know, but most of the writing I do and the approach I use when teaching is all about revisiting, reimagining, remembering. And then there are the hours when our sleeves really get folded up in the process of crafting a story: rewriting and revision! I cherish and remind myself, repeatedly, what Toni Morrison says about this step in the making of a piece:
“It’s not that you’re changing it: you’re doing it better, hitting a higher note or
a deeper tone or a different color. The revision for me is the exciting part; it’s the part that I can’t wait for—getting the whole dumb thing done so
that I can do the real work, which is making it better and better and better.”
The “re” suggests an again, even a hello, doesn’t it?
The very last line in my very first column for this magazine is this: Unforgettable. (My students may recognize this as something I talk about and remind them of in class a lot. “Yes, a word can be a sentence. Yes, you can break the rules.”) I guess it makes sense to have this final conversation, what is my very last column, be one that rolls back around to how it all began. My nudge to go home and not forget.
It’s almost late-December which means, for some people, joining holiday activities and possibly a little contemplation about the current and upcoming years. What is inevitable when we partake in either of these things—party-going and old/new year wondering—may be a literal and/or figurative going home. A literal and/or figurative remembering. Sometimes it’s tender and tragic. Sometimes, refreshing and funny. Sometimes all of everything at once.
But all times it means story. Whether we choose to work with that or not, of course, is our decision. Our prerogative. Timing is a beautiful thing. And the good news about blank pages, whether we like it or not, is that they are usually open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
I am grateful to have had the chance to write this column these past twenty months or so. Thank you for reading and sending me notes and comments about the sources, links, suggestions and prompts I’ve shared and offered. Bringing the work of people I admire to these conversations—the writers, thinkers, artists and activists—has been a way to build tighter bonds with other humans and their ideas, which very much feels like the opposite of goodbye. And, as we all now know, I am terrible at those.
Here’s to peace in heart and mind, good health in body and many days of flowing words that land on our pages.
This is not goodbye.