Paulelmo's Blog

Writing is a support system for life, but it’s not the only one

In his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King gave me one of my greatest writing lessons. “Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.” It took me a while to get that one.

For so long I tried to live the life I was trying to write; I may have even been a writer even more than I was a human. My sober years have taught me that that focus was so skewed because of the despair brought on by my drinking life. I wasted so much time drinking, which could have been spent writing, and I lived too much time carrying around regret for the past. I was seldom alone, but I was usually lonely, and completed writing is where I found my comfort. If I didn’t complete writings, I was not comforted.

My life looks nothing like that these days.

I can’t compare how I write to someone like a Stephen King, because I don’t have the luxury of writing time that one such as he has achieved. God bless him for making his name, and his money, and getting to spend his life as a professional writer. When he writes, he pays his electric bill; when he writes, he provides for his family.

I have no such luxury; writing is not the way in which I pay bills and provide for my family; I have to do all those other things before I get time to write.

Another aspect of who I was during my drinking years was that I tied my self worth to my writing; if I wasn’t writing, I didn’t feel very valuable in this world. Writing was a habit, just like my drinking was, and it was an addiction, not unlike my smoking, but it was the one I could put aside for those. I didn’t have to write, like I had to smoke, and at times I didn’t feel the same pressure to write that I did to drink, but it was not entirely different than those.

These days, in my sober life, my relationship with the written word–not just mine, but others’–has reacted the same as the relationships that I have with friends and family members; it’s all good stuff.

The reason for that is simple: My writing serves as a support system for my life, not the other way around. Saying that might beg this question: If your writing is a support system for your life, then how have you written very little in the last five months? The answer to that is simple; writing is not the only support system for my life. My kids are a support system, as is my wife. God is a support system. My duty is a support system, as are my assigned tasks. Having a good name is a support system. Being someone a friend can depend on in a time of need is a support system.

Yes, there’s no doubt that writing helps, no doubt that I will be stronger psychologically and emotionally tomorrow for having written these words. That is certainly true, and I thank God for the time, opportunity, and mental strengths that allow me to set these words on the page…but I’d make it through just fine if I didn’t have the opportunity.

Still, I did, and there’s gonna be a little bit more bounce in my step tomorrow.

It’s good to see you back at these pages. I would say I’m sorry for the layoff, but I’m not. Any time I didn’t spend writing these past few months was spent helping my family navigate this pandemic and assuring children that they weren’t going to die because of it. Every day that passed without a post landing on this page was spent making sure that all of our family’s ducks were in their rows and we would be prepared for whatever might come our way.

Those things have been my support system, and they have brought me much more comfort than anything I could have written. Still, it’s good that things are evening out some for us and I have time to do this thing that helps me complete who I am.

It’s so very good indeed.

Thanks for meeting me here, friends. I come with my love and prayers for you and your families, and I look forward to seeing you again here soon.

Until then…God’s speed.

4 Replies to “Writing is a support system for life, but it’s not the only one”

    1. Kelly! This website’s first follower. Thank you for your continued interest. It was so good to see you and Leroy the other day, even on the other side. I look forward to when things can get back to where they were before all this madness began. Much love.

  1. Reading his book as well… I was also initially stumped by that quote but you’ve shed light on it for me. I have a similar relationship with writing. Often feels like everything else comes first, but it’s such a lift when I make the time to do it. Thank you for this post, and I wish you well, as well.

    1. Thank you! Yes, that book has always been a favorite of mine, and I’ve read every book he has written. I hope you’re navigating this wonky world well. I appreciate you reading and responding.

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