It was a bit of a strange week for me as I got back into the swing of teaching after my whirlwind trip to Los Angeles. My kids are finishing Never Let Me Go this week, and in rereading the last section in order to prepare for our discussion, I found myself more moved by the ending than I was on my first reading.
Now I won’t go spoiling the ending for anyone who’s not had the pleasure of reading Ishiguro’s book, but I will say it was apropos of my life at the moment. It seems to me that Kathy H’s great struggle in life isn’t so much her inability to cope with her circumstances as it is her inability to let go of the hold her past–and the people in it–have on her.
In the writing life, there are many lettings go. We have to let go of our fear of failure. We have to let go of the work we put out into the world. We have to let go of the untenable desire to be liked by everyone. Sometimes–and this is the trickiest–we even have to let go of our relationships with people who bring us more pain than joy.
I recently received the advice, from someone much wiser and more experienced than in the literary world, we should guard good friendship closely. The writing life is an oddity: we spend much of our time alone, yet let ourselves be as raw and unguarded as possible in work that strangers will read. Because we’re pretty fired-up as people, we can be too unbuttoned, too open, with others. I was reminded that those who care about us as people aren’t solely interested in our work, or in the public face we show the world. They’re interested in our wellness and the wellness of those we love. They’re interested in our lives as human beings, and as people trying to live in the world.
This month, as I’m moving, starting a new writing project, and reading for a new issue of the magazine, it’s a time of change. It’s not only time for some new beginnings, but also for growth. As I work It’s a goal of mine as a writer and an editor not to put myself in Kathy H-like situations with the Ruth’s of the world. I want to be professional and friendly to all, and to cultivate new writerly relationships. But I also want to guard those friendships with the people who matter most, and to remember that the writing life is only a part of life itself.