One woman’s ode to the creative spirit of her Mother — a legacy beyond her prolific literary and artistic creations — one of lasting impact upon the heart
I have always wanted to be a writer. For as long as I can remember, I have loved writing and reading books and telling stories.
I have very distinct memories from my childhood of experiences that have shaped this in me, many of which involve my mother, a writer and an artist herself. Amongst them:
- My mother coming into my bedroom each morning with a notebook and a pen to write down my dreams from the night before.
- Sitting beside my mother at the typewriter, dictating stories to her as she typed them diligently, careful not to miss a word.
- Spending hours at the library each week, sprawled out on the floor surrounded by stacks of books that I loved.
- Discovering small, used bookstores with my mother and searching through dusty shelves for treasures to bring home with us.
- Curling up under the covers between my parents as they read to me from our favorite books and made up elaborate adventure stories that almost always involved either me or my brother.
My love of writing continued into adulthood: into college (I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature), into my career (I have spent the past 14 years working in the world of publishing as the editor and creative director at www.tut.com), and into my life as I now know it (I am putting the finishing touches on my first solo book, The Gifts of Writing, that will be released into the world later this year).
I think it is fair to say that I have devoted my life to writing and to becoming a writer.
Yet, my understanding of what it means to be a writer, to be an artist, is constantly shifting, evolving, and changing form.
The most seismic of these shifts happened 6 years ago, when my mother passed away. My mother, who had spent each morning writing down my dreams in her notebook. My mother, who had spent hours writing stories with me at the typewriter. My mother, who had read to me each night from our favorite books. My mother, who had written thousands of poems and painted hundreds of pictures over the course of her life.
In the beginning, after she passed, I kept boxes of her poetry by my bedside and hung her paintings on the wall above my bed. I thought that these were the gifts she had left behind, and I wanted to preserve them. I wanted to make her poems into books, because they deserved to be read. I wanted to frame her paintings, because they belonged in a gallery.
Then it dawned on me one day that her writing and her art were not the gifts she’d left behind… what she left behind was so much greater.
My mother lived a life of love. She allowed every poem she wrote and every picture she painted to make her more.
Through her creative process she became more loving, more centered, more intuitive, more honest, more aware of who she was as a woman, an artist, a friend, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a mother — my mother.
She brought that love and centeredness and intuition and honesty and awareness back with her into the world. She passed it on to me, my brother, my father, and everyone whose life she touched.
My mother’s love was the greatest gift she left behind (far greater than anything she ever created with a paintbrush or a pen — and yet in large part made possible by these very creations). Her love will continue to live on through everyone she ever loved, and through everyone they ever love, and through everyone they ever love, and so on… forevermore.
This is what it means to be an artist.
It is not measured by the number of books that we write or paintings that we sell or articles that we publish. It is not measured by publishers or agents or royalties or fans or followers.
All of that is wonderful, but it is not what we create that matters… it is who we become through the act of creating it that counts.
The real work begins the moment we step away from the art, because that is when we are challenged to take all that we have learned and carry it back with us into the world. That is when we must apply what we know on a much larger scale, to a much larger canvas — the canvas of life.
That is when we become true artists.
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