“And what, you ask, does writing teach us? First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right.”
Ray Bradbury was a highly celebrated American fiction writer who published many works in the genres of fantasy, science fiction, horror and mystery. He began his writing career while still in high school, in Los Angeles, during the Great Depression. As a young man, he could not afford a college or university education, so he spent countless hours in the public library reading authors such as Edgar Allen Poe, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H.G. Wells, and Jules Verne.
I was immediately intrigued when this quote began with the question, what does writing teach us. My immediate reaction was that I had never given this question any thought, nor had the question even occurred to me. Unlike Bradbury, I did not set out as a youth to make writing my lifelong career. Instead, I chased a career in education and taught high school History for over three decades. It wasn’t until the second-to-last year of my chosen profession that it suddenly occurred to me to ask what teaching had taught me. I may never have considered that question if I had not been asked to write an inspirational book about my teaching career. The answer became my second published work, A Personal Journey to the Heart of Teaching.
Prior to writing this book, I had never considered writing fiction, and therefore, had never considered writing as a career. As a young man, I had been told that I had some talent as a writer – remarks I had never taken seriously in terms of pursuing a writing career. It was in my final year of teaching that I decided that writing full time would be my retirement gig. That’s when I began work on my fiction series The Genesis Saga. That was June of 2008, and it wasn’t until December, 2013, that my wife and I founded Fiora Books. After seven years of retirement and writing, I had not thought to consider what writing had to teach me.
Bradbury asserts that writing reminds us that we’re alive! I smiled as I read that! Yes indeed, writing my stories and my blogs does remind me that I’m alive… not just walking, talking and breathing, but my brain is fully functional! I am creating stories about human beings (with some aliens thrown in for good measure) who love and hate, suffer hurt and experience joy as well. I find myself experiencing all of these things through my characters, and it makes me feel fully alive. As I write a blog like this one, I’m working a different part of my brain, but I feel no less alive! I find the writing experience exhausting – not unlike my physical workout each day.
He goes on to say that writing is a gift. I can’t argue that. I’ve had next to no formal writing training, and yet I seem to have this ability. Up until recent months I have been a voracious reader – and I’ve always believed that readers write much better than non-readers. I’ve seen it myself in the classroom.
Bradbury goes one step further and states that writing is a privilege. This is specialized communication that I can use to entertain, instruct, or share ideas with my readers. It really is a privilege to be given this precious gift of writing. I’ve always regarded “privilege” as one side of a coin, with the other side being, “responsibility”. As a writer, I have been gifted and have the privilege to write about what is in my mind and in my heart. My responsibility is to use the gift, not just for my own gain, but also for the benefit of those who read my words. I must use care and concern as I write. Therefore, writing is a privilege, never a right.