I was cutting the vegetables by the kitchen sink and listening to Annie Dillard’s audiobook The Writing Life. ‘Why people want to be writers I will never know, unless their lives lack a material footing.’
“Does yours?” piped up a small voice.
“Mine what?” I asked, confused. I had forgotten that my young son was there on the floor, some ten feet away, constructing a cross bow out of paper, cellophane tape, and rubber bands, all held together with glue from a hot glue gun.
“Lack …” he trailed off, struggling to remember the exact words, before I realised he was referring to Dillard.
“Oh, no, with such wonderful children, my life could not possibly lack any materiality,” I assured him. Truth be told, when I heard that Dillard found all her pot plants dead and black after completing a manuscript, I misguidedly rued the fact that I could not possibly let my children die of hunger as she had let her plants die of thirst.
To put it all this into perspective was one of Australia’s best story tellers – Arnold Zable, who taught a class on Advocacy as an Artform at SA Writers Centre last Saturday.
‘Life comes first, writing second,’ he said. It is out of our ongoing engagement with life and the people around us, that we learn things, and from that engagement flows writing that is true. I suppose we can insert any occupation into that second clause. Life comes first, all these things come second: plumbing, doctoring, teaching, gardening, milking the cow, mowing the lawn.
In the unlikely event that any of my children read this, know that you are loved and truly, because of you, my life does not lack a material footing.