I recently read a memoir titled Five Pages a Day: A Writer’s Journey by Peg Kehret. Peg is a prolific writer who has published many books for children, the first one when she was fifty years old. She is now 78 and continues to write. Her memoir touched me deeply. I enjoyed her straight-forward, no-frills style and the candid and tender way she shared so many details of her writing career and personal life. I was encouraged by her persistence and clarity of purpose and by her simple and unassuming lifestyle. She has dedicated her life to the things she loves–family, writing, animals–in spite of physical weakness (she suffered from polio as a child and from post-polio syndrome since her fifties). She truly embodies the saying “Life is what you make it.”
She does, however, recognize that she has been fortunate in one important way: she has had the luxury of time to write:
“After three days of [attempting to work at a “real job”], I admitted that I would forever be a writer. My novel had not sold, but at least I had written it. I had done my best, and that was better than not trying. How I use my time is more crucial than how much I earn. From then on I did the work I love and never again took a “real” job.
“I was fortunate to have this choice. Carl made enough money for our family to live on, and he enthusiastically supported my writing efforts. Even in the years when I published little, he believed in my work and encouraged me.
“Writers need time to experiment with ideas and words, time to concentrate on a manuscript, time to revise, time to daydream. My husband gave me the luxury of time to write.”
I don’t have the luxury of not having to work at a “real job,” but I do have more time to write now than I when I was a teacher. What I must learn is to be persistent, no matter the circumstances. I can’t write five pages a day, like Peg does, but I can definitely write five pages a week.
What I love most about her memoir, however, is that it reminds me that, in an age of internet hullabaloo, there is still room for unassuming creative souls who just want to quietly dedicate themselves to the work they love.
But for me to do that, I’ve realized, I must periodically disengage myself–from anything and everything that holds me back–and determine to carry on.
(What are the things that hold me back? Personal problems, family problems, health issues, heartache, worries, my children’s needs, the tragedies of the world, the voices around me and inside me… In other words, the terrible business of being a human with a brain and a heart.)
So, because I don’t have much time to write, because sometimes life renders me immobile and speechless, and because persistence is key, from now on, my creative battle cry will be:
Disengage and carry on.