On Writing and Pleasure

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This is a Cherokee Moon and Stars watermelon that I picked from the garden just this morning. Isn’t it lovely?

You might not be familiar with it, since you can’t find it in the store. It’s not “commercially viable”. It has…seeds. Imagine that, a fruit with seeds. Like most heirloom varieties, it almost went extinct, and was only saved by the efforts of a few small farmers that grew it simply because they liked it, and not because it was “commercially viable”.

I haven’t cut into this melon, so I have no idea how it tastes. It could taste terrible, yet I will still love it, for all the pleasure it has already given me. I started these seeds this winter, on long folding tables in my living room, the damp, dark scent of potting soil filling the house. When they were ready, we transplanted them outside, and with some sun, water, and compost, this beautiful fruit was made. And the pleasure I get from just the sight of it has made all the work worthwhile.

I’m saving this melon for when my husband gets home tonight, and we can share it together, since he put just as much work into its cultivation. I’m hoping it’s delicious, but even if it’s not, the opportunity for us to share our memories of the work that went into it, the pride that we’re eating something we grew together, will make it worth it.

I’ve been in a bit of a low spot with the writing, wondering if it’s worth it, if the time I spend couldn’t be better spent elsewhere. There’s always something to do around here, and more of it could get done if I wasn’t writing.

But then I saw this perfect melon, and I realized that the writing is worth it. It gives me pleasure to craft a story, to try to put images and ideas and characters into words, even if those words are imperfect. And my words are imperfect; there is plenty about the craft of writing I still have to master. My books perhaps will not be enjoyed by a wide audience. They may only be enjoyed by a small group of readers. I’m OK with that.

Don’t get me wrong–I’d also like for many readers to enjoy my books. I’d even like to make some filthy lucre off of them. But the pleasure I get from putting words to page, from pondering and polishing and even cutting them out, makes the effort worthwhile. A thing can exist, can be worth putting time into, even if it only pleases one person.

I have this melon to thank for reminding me of that. Although eating it seems a poor way to say thank you.

2 responses to “On Writing and Pleasure

  1. The things we do should give inherent pleasure and have inherent meaning. Writing every day is like meditating or running: it’s a way of life as much as anything else. But I don’t think it’s bad to want the external validation of critical or commercial success. Hell, even Emily Dickinson sold a handful of poems in her lifetime.

    It would be very sad if you stopped writing: no one else could write your books except you!

    • I wouldn’t ever stop writing! I was doing some cost-benefit analyses in some darker moments, and then I saw that melon. It gave me all these Thoughts and Feelings that I had to write out.

      I certainly don’t mean to disparage critical or commercial success–I’ve got my career plan mapped out and I’d be lying if I wrote just for the hell of it. There’s some calculation there as well. I just needed a reminder that even if nothing ever comes of it, the time spent writing was not wasted.

      As an aside, I fell in love with this melon variety from the picture in the seed catalog. The plants didn’t make it last year, so seeing them this year thrive, set fruit, and make such beautiful melons was a big fist pump moment for me. šŸ™‚

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