A Writer’s Life

I adore Pat Conroy.  As a writer, I think of how puny my words are, comparatively speaking, next to his.  Puny and pedestrian.  The fact that I am weak next to his strength makes me love him all the more for his brilliance.

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To my delighted surprise, as I read his book My Reading Life, I discovered our kinship; I saw what Pat Conroy and I shared.  We each had harsh words thrown at us, like a hardball to the head, by someone we admired concerning our work. Yet, we didn’t allow our admiration to cloud our knowing and roundly disregarded the truth of another, because it wasn’t ours.  This, sweet readers, takes a bone-shaking courage, because as writers we are rarely satisfied with how we bind our words together to form an image, an image set in our imagination set free only by our words, so you too can see what pains, thrills, and engulfs us.

I take great solace in knowing that Pat’s mentor, a man overflowing with knowledge of books and words and greatness, said this about Pat’s writing:

“You’re never going to be a great writer. Not even a good one. You can aspire to mediocrity.  Nothing else.”

The Great Santinis Pat Conroy was told this by a man who knew him deeply and took great interest to foster his future success as a writer.  His hope was that Pat might leave his mark upon the literary world, that Pat might be a writer that other writers would use as their true north.  Yet, his madness had no method; he simply believed that Pat Conroy was a mediocre writer.

When I read those words, I laughed the uncontrolled laugh of the deranged, because after all, if Pat Conroy is mediocre, where the hell does that leave me?

My take-away dove deeper still.

Pat Conroy is anything but mediocre.  He is astonishing and unique.  I feel moved and surprised and awed every time I read his works.  His use of language is poetic and sublime.  Thank God, he knew his own heart; he knew his own path.  He resisted the overpowering voice of another to favor his own.  We should all be so wise.  That was my take-away, and should be yours, in whatever endeavor you feel worthy of your efforts.

Pat wrote because he had something to say; he read to see himself.

“Writers of the world, if you’ve got a story, I want to hear it.  I promise it will follow me to my last breath.  My soul will dance with pleasure, and it will change the quality of all my waking hours.  You will hearten me and brace me up for the hard days that enter my life on the prowl.  I reach for a story to save my own life.  Always.”

This is why I write: to tell what must be told, to make sense of a world that makes no sense, to save my life.







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  1. Visiting from #LOBS. I too am a writer, although nothing close to Pat Conroy. His books are incredible! Just goes to show that people appreciate different things.

    • I love that he shared that his mentor thought he was a mediocre write, even in the face of his brilliance. You’re right, just goes to show…

  2. Beautifully said. I like that you point out the lesson’s value for all parts of our life. Write because you have something to say, DO because you have something to offer.

  3. I have not heard of this writer before. I will have to seek him out! Visiting via LOBS. I find myself doing a lot of writing these days – something I would never have imagined. Practice practice they say! 🙂

  4. I am a fan of Conroy, will definitely find that book.

  5. I sometimes wonder if people do this just to test your mettle, just to see if you will ignore them and fight through to find your own voice. I don’t write for others’ approval. I write because there is something I want to read that no one else has written yet.

    • I wondered that too, but Conroy swore that was not the case. Hard pill to swallow, if he had believed his mentor. So glad he followed his inner voice.

  6. Thanks for posting this. I love his writing, even if I have to keep a dictionary near me to keep up with his vocabulary!


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