A writer only ceases to be when his heartbeat is permanently silenced. For as long as there is life in him, there will always be words fighting to come out. Life is a matter of choice; writing an imposition of life. A writer’s pulse is the existential need for self-expression. A vital need so primal that “I” and “we” are the oldest words in the English language. All subsequent words owe their lineage to these two subject pronouns. They were conceived so that we could understand the world and distill the meaning of life. They were conceived so that we could vanquish the limits of our own mortality, communicating both with present and future generations. The twilight of words is the twilight of life.
A writer is born the very first moment one finds the courage to express his thoughts, feelings and ideas in written form. In so doing, the writer might think that he is telling the story of others, but he will always be telling the story of himself. After all, to write is to channel life. Every word carries the writer’s imprimatur, bearing his values, conveying his ideas, condensing his emotions, communicating his perception of life. Words are his window into the landscape of life, but they provide much more than vision, they are his voice amidst the strife. In this sense, a writer is anyone who is willing to breathe life into his words and stand before the world for what he believes.
A cynic might object that only one who earns a living through writing can truly be considered a writer. If our capitalist society quantifies even the value of human beings, it may be unreasonable to expect that words be awarded a more dignifying treatment. But dismissing writing solely as just another career is to diminish the real significance of the human condition. On this matter, I can only speak for myself. I write what has no monetary value and what has monetary value I cannot write. Banks write money, human beings write life. How can life have no value?
Cynics are always ready to question, but never available to answer. Of course, just as life has immeasurable value, so does any piece of writing that encapsulates it as well. To quantify anything is merely to ascribe it a number, but to truly value something is to understand that no number could ever measure its worth. All that we hold sacred in this world should be valued, not quantified. As authors of life, this includes human beings. As authors of life, this includes the words we leave behind.
Therefore, those who claim that a writer must publish or perish clearly misunderstand the source of his life. Publishing brings the public validation that most writers lustfully desire, but only to later find out that true, personal vindication comes from within, not from without. For as long as there is life in him, a writer will always have an inspirational muse. Whether he decides to share this beauty with the world at large may be subject to the vagaries of life and his willingness to denude himself before the public eye. One reason he might decline to do so is the passage of time.
As a writer ages, so does his writing. As a writer ages, so does his perception of life. The passage of time brings a perspective that only distance can provide. Prized words that he once cherished may no longer carry the same meaning. Just as other previously neglected words may gain untold layers of meaning. As the implications of the choices he made in life become clear to him, he may regret certain mistakes while being grateful for other decisions. The urge to express himself will not have abated, even if the willingness to expose himself has. Upon reaching what he perceives to be the end, he should remind himself of the beginning. For as long as there is life in him, there will always be words fighting to come out. Life is a matter of choice; writing an imposition of life. The twilight of words is the twilight of life.