Your Writing Won’t Save You

Writer Joyce Carol Oates, wrote recently an essay about her conflicted struggle to accept widowhood after the sudden death of her husband. It is a wonderful piece.

joyce-carol-oates-memoir-wide.jpgOne of the tasks she faced was that of cleaning up the aftermath of her husband’s editorial work on the Ontario Review. The pile of submitted stories all had to receive ‘rejection’ notices since the publication was shutting down.

In communicating this, she wanted to find some way to encourage these young writers.

“Even in my numbed state I feel an impulse to encourage writers, or anyway a wish not to discourage them. Thinking It would have meant something to me, years ago.

I think I would like someone like this who, even in her sorrow, is thinking of others.

But her concern for these up and coming writers runs deeper than this. She senses that what these writers are seeking in their writing is significance, purpose, a sense of place. Her trauma has brought everything into perspective. She continues:

“Though nothing means much to me, now. The possibility of being ‘encouaged’ has become abstract and theoretical to me — ‘encouraged’ for what purpose?

Your writing will not save you. Managing to be published – by Ontario Review Press! – will not save you. Don’t be deluded.

This is so poignant and so true. We fix our eyes upon a goal and think that if we only achieve that goal, we will be important, we will find significance, we will finally find meaning.

And we do, for a time.

But this voice of wisdom, loss, and reality says, “Your writing (marriage, business, childbearing, religion, morality) will not save you.”

Worth pondering.

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