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This is what it feels like when the writing is going well.  

Do you remember a time when you felt the kind of unbridled joy so evident in this photo of my grandson, John Martin Taedu Clayton? It makes me smile every time I look at it. 

I’ve had some health challenges, a ruptured disk that resulted in spinal surgery, in the past few months that have prevented me from doing what I love--doing what makes me the happiest--writing.  Instead, I’ve been reading all sorts of random novels, short stories and essays. And I've been doing a great deal of thinking about my life and how I have chosen to spend so much of it pursuing the art of writing. In Cynthia Ozick’s book of essays entitled Ardor and Art, I came across the following quote:

“The burden of art is obvious: here is the world, here are human beings, here is childhood, here is struggle, here is hate, here is old age, here is death. None of this is a fantasy, a romance, or a sentiment, none is an imagining; all are obvious. A culture that does not allow itself to look clearly at the obvious through the universal accessibility of art is a culture of tragic delusion.”

This quotation sent me on a journey into my past and my early, high school experiences with literature. I found myself remembering stories that had moved me to a deeper level of thought.  Tolstoy’s, The Death of Ivan Illich, was an example. It was after reading that novella in the 11th grade that I had my first conscious thoughts about the meaning of life being love—that interaction between Ivan and his son—that death scene that haunted me for years and made me look deeper into myself and my relationships with others.

I read To Kill A Mockingbird and Light in August during the same era. It was a time when civil rights were issues—a time of racial unrest and violence. My high school in New Castle, Delaware, was being integrated. Bus loads of young black students were delivered to its front doors each morning. There were fights, fear and distrust everywhere. My older brother's friends were being drafted into the Vietnam war when I read  Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Another example of art that changed my young life while still in its teens.

Those books dealt with the obvious—love, hate, evil, death, prejudice, pride, parenthood and the darkness of the human soul. They dealt with the struggle to survive. They fulfilled the “burden of art” as it was above defined.  By experiencing the struggles of the characters in those, and many other works of art, I was more able to survive my own.  Art gave me courage.

In a letter to her daughter, the author, Jean Rhys, said, “I know that to write as well as I can is my truth and why I was born.”

Writing is very hard work and I don’t believe anyone would do it unless she had to—unless, like Jean Rhys, she knew in her very being that writing was her truth. Difficult as it is, writing is not without its rewards. Composing, even the most minor of pieces, teaches us a great deal about the ways of the world. We writers learn who we are through the act of writing and perhaps help readers to discover themselves as well. Ultimately, self knowledge may be the greatest achievement one can make—the accomplishment of a lifetime—to define, to create and to recreate the self. 

And besides that, it makes me so happy I want to leap into the air just like my grandson. 



Linda Wilkinson
11/24/2014 3:24pm

I love the way you share your thoughts with us. It's like a view inside what really makes you "tick". I feel like I have known you all these years yet I am always learning more. Never give up your dream. It defines the person you are.

Martha Ragland
01/01/2015 6:13pm

Such a wonderful message paired with such a joyful photo! Thank you, Susan.

05/21/2015 10:56pm

A culture that does not allow itself to look clearly at the obvious through the universal accessibility of art is a culture of tragic delusion.

08/12/2015 3:40pm

Great informative site. I'm really impressed after reading this blog post.

04/12/2017 7:06am

the best advice for whole your life. Do what makes you happy. This is so easy to do!

09/09/2015 9:31am

You're a wide reader. Thus, I am sure that you have a broad imagination and have plenty of ideas. Writers will take different paths to write their narrative from beginning till end. I appreciate your effort in sharing the plot of every story you have read. I hope to read more post from you.


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11/06/2015 7:52am

Someone can say that murder makes them happy)

11/20/2015 12:35pm

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01/08/2016 5:44am

Great perspective which reminds me of the words of Ray Bradbury, who lived out his life in Tucson: “Be certain of this: When honest love speaks, when true admiration begins, when excitement arises, when hate curls like smoke, you need never doubt that creativity will stay with you for a lifetime. The core of your creativity should be the same as the core of your story and of the main character in your story.”

01/24/2016 5:41am

! All the best to you.


Every one of the only to you personally.

03/21/2016 11:07am

Jean Rhys, author of The Wide Sargasso Sea and Good Morning, Midnight reminds us that: “We can't all be happy, we can't all be rich, we can't all be lucky - and it would be so much less fun if we were... There must be the dark background to show up the bright colors” and as we see unfold in many literary works: “There are always two deaths, the real one and the one people know about.”

Growing up back east, with the smell of sweet magnolia blossoms, who could not relate to Harper Lee’s comments about summer from To Kill A Mockingbird: “summer was our best season: it was sleeping on the back screened porch in cots, or trying to sleep in the treehouse; summer was everything good to eat;it was a thousand colors in a parched landscape.”

That’s an image that just stays in your head forever, sort of like this one (it might actually refer to the writer’s guild) from the same novel:

“I think I'll be a clown when I get grown,' said Dill.
Jem and I stopped in our tracks.
Yes sir, a clown,' he said. 'There ain't one thing in this world I can do about folks except laugh, so I'm gonna join the circus and laugh my head off.'
You got it backwards, Dill,' said Jem. 'Clowns are sad, it's folks that laugh at them.'
Well I'm gonna be a new kind of clown. I'm gonna stand in the middle of the ring and laugh at the folks.”

At any rate John Martin Taedu Clayton’s photo captures well what the late Pat Conroy shared with us so eloquently: “Without music and dance, life is a journey through a desert.”

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