Because I Have To

Yesterday I started and finished Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos. It’s her third novel and the third one I’ve devoured read. I got her first, Love Walked In, as part of a birthday present years ago. It was in the bag with three other books and I’d never heard of any of them. Three, maybe six, months later I picked up Love Walked In. I read it in a day. That in and of itself is not anything special for me. I prefer to read my books large chunks at a time. Big, swallowing gulps, losing myself in the world of the words in my hands. What was different was that I was nearly buzzing with happiness. The humor and wit, the smart characters, the way she pieced her words together. This this is what writing is like for me. This is what I am trying to achieve every time I sit down to write.

I am convinced that if you were to take Marisa de los Santos apart, piece by piece, bit by bit you wouldn’t find bones and veins and connective tissue. You’d find words. Phrases, whole sentences. Because only someone with a marrow deep understanding of the English language should be able to take the simplest of words and connect them together and end up with beauty. She takes ordinary people and situations and infuses them with such color and love and sorrow that you can’t help but want to follow them around for the rest of your life.

After finishing the book I immediately wrote my college writing professor (mentor, friend, lovely lovely woman) and gushed excessively. You have to read it. It’s amazing. So beautiful! And simple. And funny! I did not do her justice then, and I’m not now. But I remember having to tell someone who would get it. Someone who would understand my appreciation of de los Santos’ writing. Who would understand why I read that book and then said, I have to write my own story now. (I did the same thing with Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird (Holy shit have you read this? This is it! This is exactly it!) to which my professor at the time (another, different, but equally lovely woman) sweetly patted my head and said, Yes dear, I know.)

Not everyone will feel this way after reading her words. Logically I understand that. (I mean, I don’t really get it. But that part of your brain that you occasionally let have a say tells me that people have different tastes or something. Weird, right?) We all have different buttons inside us and it takes the right combination for us to fall in love, with words and people and sometimes even things. I don’t get this feeling often. I don’t feel the need to knit a sweater after seeing the most gorgeous sweater there ever was. I just want to wear it. And it’s easy for me, after reading something spectacularly on the mark to want to give up. It’s too perfect. Too funny. Too exactly what I’ve been trying to achieve that I throw my hands up in the air somtimes saying heeey oh you gotta let go and give up. I will never master what they have so artfully already mastered.

But every now and then someone hits all the right buttons in just the right order and I’m left buzzing. Certain that if you looked at me you’d see it, you’d see my skin tingling with it. Remembering why I started writing in the first place. Why learning to put together words in a way that makes people feel is something I’ve always strived for. Because I have to. I am a writer. Even if I never publish a thing. I am a writer because I don’t have a choice in the matter.

And I am so so grateful that there are authors out there who remind me of this every time I pick up their work.

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