Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Writing and the Bigger Picture

by Julia Buckley
When my husband and I were engaged, I said something both emotional and unfair: that I wouldn't marry him unless he quit smoking. I doubt that this was true, but he took me at my word and quit cold turkey on January 1st, 1988. I remember sitting with him in a downtown Chicago restaurant, watching the sweat from his palms drip onto the table during that very difficult weekend of withdrawal. He did that for me, and for himself, and he hasn't smoked since.

We were talking about that today (I dragged him away from his beloved Sun-Times), and I said I thought it was rather remarkable that he had been able to simply stop smoking, when so many of my friends and relatives can't seem to do it.

He thought about it, and said, "I think quitting smoking has to be about something bigger than just wanting to do it."

I thought that was very meaningful, and naturally I thought it related nicely to the world of writing. Writers want to write, of course. But that great book, that successful book, will have to be about more than just wanting to write it. Bruce Barton once wrote that "Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstances." I think the writer must feel this; while the tendency might be to think that what he or she is creating is not good, is not working, is not going to be successful (writers do talk themselves down, don't they?), the reality is that writers have a unique opportunity to succeed and to affect others. They must find in themselves what is superior to their circumstances.

Meanwhile, I asked Jeff to verify his quote. "What was it you said about smoking?" I asked.

"I don't know," he said, still reading the paper. "But I know it was super profound."

Hey, I never asked him to give up his ego. :)


Lisa Bork said...

LOL. Super profound and funny, too. Great post, Julia.

Julia Buckley said...

Thanks, Lisa! :)

G.M. Malliet said...

I've heard that the addiction to smoking is the hardest of addictions to give up. What a testimony to you, Julia! Congratulations to you both.

Julia Buckley said...

Based on what I've seen of other friends and relatives and their struggles to stop (and their failures to do so), I think that it is very difficult.

Jeff says that he thinks eating addictions are worse, because a person has to eat each day, while smoking can be avoided.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Great analogy here, Julia. I think, like quitting smoking, that taking the plunge and finishing a book takes amazing determination.

Great post!


Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Wonderful post, as always, Julia. And I love the Barton quote.

But you missed the real point of Jeff's successful nicotine kick: He had you to win in the end. Doesn't take Einstein to do the math on that choice.

Julia Buckley said...

Thanks, Elizabeth--it's a workable comparison, anyway. :)

Sue-Ann, flattery will get you everywhere. :)

Keith Raffel said...

Julia, Remember Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity? He'd do anything to win Barbara Stanwyck, the prototypical femme fatale, including murder. Lucky for your then fiance that the femme fatale in his story had something better for his health in mind.

Julia Buckley said...

It's funny that this tale made you think of Fred MacMurray. I always think of him as the lovable loser in MY THREE SONS.

But yes, I am not yet La Belle Dame Sans Merci--but I may become one as I grow older and more mercurial.