A little over a year ago I got back in touch with a friend of mine from my days in grad school. She was, back then, one of the most confident, smart women writers I knew, and I really expected big things from her. We used to hang out and drink pitchers of beer and watch other people shoot hoops in the bar (this was in Iowa) and talk about writing and fiction.
She fell in love with another writer in the program, also very talented. They moved off to a respectable Southern college town with a university known for good writing, and I expected to see those aforementioned big things from them and then… they both stopped writing.
It wasn’t really the result I expected.
Whenever I think about the cult of talent, that so often believes talent in writing matters more than anything else, I think of them and the people I know like them—they have talent for days between them. A lack of talent is not what got in the way here. In other circumstances, you could suspect something cliche, like her husband didn’t like that she wrote, except… he did. In fact, it was part of the attraction. Of course things are complicated, but it wasn’t one of those situations where he was surprised to find she was a writer.
In any case, this is about something else, because what happened is that I told her how much I thought about her writing and how surprised I was that she hadn’t written since, either of them for that matter, and then said I understood, it’s hard, for they have kids now, etc. But the point is now a year later she has sent me a draft of the first story she’s written in who even knows, I’m excited to read it, and she said it helped that I reached out and said that.
I’ll admit I felt kind of shitty at the time— I regretted it out of the sense that it’s painful enough to stop writing and know you could continue without hearing from other people about it, in one way. But if you tell someone you miss their work, I think that is different, or at least, I can see she experienced it differently than I feared she would.
So if you know someone like this, consider writing to ask about where that new story is, or send a fan letter and let them know their work matters to you. People go silent for so many reasons, who knows why. It’s good to let them know they’re missed.