People were always saying to Margaret, ‘Well, Julia sings and Betsy writes. Now what is little Margaret going to do?’
Margaret would smile politely, for she was very polite, but privately she stormed to Betsy with flashing eyes, ‘I’m not going to do anything. I want to just live. Can’t people just live?’
‘Of course,’ Betsy soothed her. But she could never understand.
—Betsy and Joe, Maud Hart Lovelace
Lately I am remembering Margaret’s words – Margaret, the little sister who hangs around on the fringes of Betsy’s and Julia’s much more exciting lives. She is quiet, sober, thoughtful, a loner – she prefers playing with her pets and taking walks with her father to playing with other children. She doesn’t ask for much from life, not like Julia with her dreams of becoming a world-famous opera singer, or Betsy, whose dreams of writing the great American novel mirror my own. She wants to “just live.” And lately I’m wondering: Can that be enough? And also: How much writing can one do without a good dose of “just living”?
Lately I am wondering if I’m doing enough living to infuse my writing with any kind of spark. I am hiding out in my office, and in stacks and stacks of great books, even more than usual. I am reading other people’s stories while often failing to live my own. And then when I come to the page, I find I don’t have much, if anything, to say.
I don’t want to be lazy or undisciplined. I believe in the value of showing up to the page (or screen) regularly, if not always daily. I am grateful to have pockets of time and space to write. And yet lately I find myself running low on words, ideas and energy. It would certainly be easier to give up writing and “just live.”
But like Betsy (and her creator, Maud), I’ve always been a writer. And like both of them, I hope to learn how to balance the writing with all the pleasures and necessities of “just living.”
*Image from The Five Borough Book Review