Now and then I receive an email which marks such a place in my memory that I can’t seem to put it aside. This is one of those emails.
Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room’s only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation. Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window. The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlightened by all the activity and color of the world outside.
The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance. As the man by the window described all this in exquisite details, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine this picturesque scene.
One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man could not hear the band – he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.
Days, weeks and months passed. One morning, the nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.
As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone. Slowly and painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window besides the bed. It faced a blank wall. The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window. The nurse responded the man was blind and could not even see the wall.
This is what we are compelled to do as writers. Like the blind man we describe a scene, a character, a feeling, etc. We paint pictures with our words so readers can see what we are seeing in our minds eye. We strive to make our readers see what details we need them to see in order for our story to be intriguing enough to continue turning the pages. Better yet, buy our book(s).
What drove us to be a writer? What happened to us in our childhood? What act of nature effected our development in our mother’s womb which drives us to feel the compulsion to put words down on paper for other people to read? We have all asked ourselves these questions. Not only do we open our souls for other people to critic our inner thoughts but we leave them in written form for all future generations to access.
Is it seeing your name on something you have poured your heart into? Is it the feeling that your name will live on long after you are gone? I don’t believe so. I believe the reason we put ourselves in the position of being a writer, or as all of us hope a published writer, is because we can’t seem to stop the words from coming. In spite of writer’s block, having to work a full time job to pay the bills, dealing with rejection after rejection, we all love to write. We feel if we don’t get the words out into written form we will literally explode. Some of us feel more comfortable saying what we need to say on paper. Some of us appease our muse by putting down on paper a story which has kept us awake night after night plotting and giving characters life.
If you have a writer in your life please be patient with them. Learn to give them the respect they deserve but above all let them tell their story. Allow us to be the blind man in your life so you can see the world as we do expressed so vividly in what we love – our writing.
“Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen.”