February 6, 2010

Tags: Fiction, writing, writing fiction, dreams & immortality

A writer would rather write than do much of anything else. Writing is her gift to the world, a legacy and memorial.

There's a story about the king of an ancient kingdom in Asia--Japan or China, I don't remember which. This king is a poet, and he wants to leave a legacy of his poetry for his people, for generations to come. He begins building a great gateway at the entrance to his kingdom, which he plans to inscribe with his poems. But a great famine ensues, so he uses funds set aside for the gateway to provide food for his people. Then he begins his memorial gateway again, but there's a terrible flood in the land that wipes out homes and farmlands--so once again, the king delays building his great poetic legacy to help his people rebuild their homes and plant their crops.

The poet king returns to the work on his gateway, but the kingdom comes under attack, so he uses funds that were reserved for his poetic project to arm his troops and repel the invaders. Finally he is able to return to building his great gateway. I can't remember if he is ever able to finish it, or not. Perhaps he dies before it can be completed, or perhaps his people finish it for him, carving into stone the lines of the poems he wrote. But to his people, their king's true legacy is the memory of how he came to their aid repeatedly, setting aside his poetic project for a higher, more crucial good.

A writer wants to write. But often, the demands of life--relationship, family, work-- intrude on or delay the creative process, using energy that could be spent in finishing a poem or completing a chapter in a book. Maybe all the books that could get written never do, because there's just not enough time to go around. But those hours spent with loved ones, the games played with children, the attention given to feline or canine companions, the gifts that result from faithfully carrying out the duties of one's "day job"...may be the legacy that ends up mattering more than a writer's written words ever could. And hopefully, somewhere in there, the gateway of poems will be finished; books will be written, and find their way into the world.


  1. July 14, 2010 11:36 AM EDT
    But time intervenes leaving us with a story in our heart to share! Kate, I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed Where the Lake Becomes a River! I read it as a member of the Mississippi Author Awards Committee. I am planning on using your book for an upcoming Book Club Book here at my library. I want my people to read the richness you showed in tying short stories together to make the whole! Again, I thoroughly enjoyed this book!
    - Donna P. Fite
  2. July 15, 2010 6:40 AM EDT
    Donna, Thanks so much for your kind comments, and for recommending the book to your reading club. Growing up in Mississippi was wonderful, confusing, scary, maddening and thoroughly enjoyable. Writing the book helped me (or the Muse, or me n' the Muse) bring many elements together into a story that finally felt complete, and soul-satisfying. I really appreciate it when Mississippians give feedback, and thank you for taking the time to write. All the best,
    - Kate Betterton
I wondered, Why are so many of us compelled to write?...and the Muse, riding shotgun, replied, "The soul must speak, and longs to be heard."

The Muse and the musician

The Soul Dreams, Listening to Her Muse

More on Where the Lake Becomes the River: DOWN IN THE DELTA