They Push Me

I turn to these writers and their pages again and again. They are my teachers and my mentors. Though not all of them are poets in the rhyme-and-meter sense of the word, they are certainly poets in the Wordsworth or Coleridge sense of the word. And heaven knows they are better writers than I will ever be.

Grateful is the only word I know for the glimpses they have given me of what it means to attempt the work and live the life of a writer.

I keep these books close at hand because they help me remember the things I tend to forget. The books are inspiring to be sure, but they also teach me very practical things. They remind me to pay attention to the stories of my life so that in the telling of them I might help others recall the stories of their lives, which is where the real truth of their lives is revealed.

They push me to make sentences that people can hear as well as read, to work as hard as I can until the whole of what I am writing becomes as clear as I can make it. To not give up the work even when the work seems clearly impossible to write.

They help me remember, in whatever story I am writing, to look for the light in the midst of the darkness. To pay attention to the larger world around me, not just the world I call my own.

They push me to tell the truth, the hard truth about my life, as someone may be dying to hear it. To tell the old stories when the time comes but make them come alive. To not be so busy being an artiste that I forget to be a person and a friend.


from “Dancing on the Head of a Pen” by Robert Benson