When I was a kid it was the dump.
Every Saturday morning my father and I would pile a week’s worth of trash into the back of our Plymouth Fury station wagon and head the to the Concord town dump. Back then the dump was a place of perpetually burning fires and massive heaps of discarded metal: bed-frames, lawn mowers, refrigerators and two centuries worth of bicycles. They would only haul the pile away when it reached mammoth proportions, when they'd lift the tangled webs of metal with a crane that looked to have crawled out of Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel. The crane had a massive magnet that somehow shut itself off and dropped the whole load into the truck with a deafening and fatalistic screech, though I could never figure out how that magnet shut off—much to the chagrin of my crew cut engineer father—something to do with a solenoid, I recall. I'd sit on the bumper and guide him as he backed up to the hottest fire. I'd then start casting everything in to the pit—I mean everything, whether it could burn or not.
My father would leave me to my primal sport and go talk to the other fathers (and very rarely, mothers) who were always gathered around talking: politics, the war, cars, sports, or just handing out schedules and town meeting agendas. As they talked about everything under the sun, I'd find some classmate (there was always a neighbor or classmate at the dump) and we'd heave hair spray, spray paint and empty almost turpentine cans into the fire just to watch them explode. Occasionally, after a really good explosion, someone would scream at us miscreants, but we'd just nonchalantly holler back, "Sorry, didn't know it was in there," and the adults would go back to their talking, and we'd go back to our heaving and blowing up of things. I sometimes wonder how anything gets resolved in Concord now that they no longer have a dump. I wonder where everybody goes where they can talk on an equal footing with their neighbor. We all need a place to meet and speak and converse in brave and honest dialogues, no matter what the venture, time or place—and so it is with our writing community in class: We've got to get out of our metaphorical cars and say, "How you do?" to our neighbors, even if we don't know them from a hole in the wall.
So, I like to think of our class writing communities as the Concord Town Dump because it is good to have a place where everybody can gather and get the news from a common place. Words matter, and in the end it is through our words and actions that we will be remembered. We are all an equal cog in a wheel of writers, and without your blog there would be one less of “each other's” blogs, and so our community of writers would be diminished by an infinite degree—the degree of your potential.
You will be measured and remembered by the words you leave behind. Words are remembered because they are memorable, not simply by virtue of being spoken or written down. A good writer strives to craft writing that is memorable for the reader, and a good writer will do so in the same way that a cook tries to make a meal that his or her guests will remember fondly—a meal that will make them want to come back again and again. We will go to that restaurant as often as we can, and we will read every book that writer publishes—and we’ll go to the best blogs in our community time and time again to see what the writer—hopefully you—has produced today.
There is another small scale (and often frustrating) irony that comes into play: the best writers are rarely the most widely read or popular writers. Henry David Thoreau's books were scarcely read by his contemporaries in his day. He spent four or five hours every day writing in his journals and crafting his now acknowledged masterpieces of literature, with only a handful of people ever laying eyes on his lifetime of labor.
But Thoreau continued to write because he believed in the value of what he was writing—and you need to believe in what you are writing, not because of what he or she or me says about your writing, but because you believe in what you write; because you believe that writing is important and necessary and needed; and because you've felt (or will soon feel) the power, majesty and mystery of good writing, and learning to write well is a mountain you are willing to climb. From that mountaintop you will let the world see what you see and feel what you feel, and you will be a part of the great cycle of searching for meaning that keeps us human. You are much more than a kid wanting to be a better writer; you are the beginning of your greatest potential.
Keep writing. It always pays off.
A Word Slinging, Song Singing, Story Swapping, Poet, Raconteur, Teacher, & Craftsman