It has been quite a month of milestones for Bob Dylan, and for my children. My youngest moved up from Cub Scouts to Webelos, my middle child completed her middle year of middle school, and my eldest is halfway through high school. I could write volumes about their achievements, but they prefer that I refrain from oversharing. Instead, I limit myself to reflections about what I am feeling in this moment, about how their growing up coincides with my growing older.
I am stymied by the swift passage of time. Twenty years ago, standing on the threshold of adulthood—about to be married, not yet a middle-aged rabbi and mother of three—I could not have imagined the joy I would experience at seeing the work of my younger years finally paying off. Today I recall friends who are no longer with me on this journey, who are forever young in my mind’s eye and whose children were forced to grow up too soon. I memorize and catalog the details of each milestone, so grateful for the privileges of middle-aged parenthood.
I can feel my heart beating as strongly as it did in its 20’s, singing the words of a wise rabbi:
“May your heart always be joyful,
And may your song always be sung.
May you stay forever young.”
Saul Bellow once said that “a writer is a reader moved to emulation.” This is an apt description of my own journey from a voracious reader of books of my choosing to a critical reader of books of my professors’ choosing, to a writer. It was, I now believe, an inevitable transformation.
When I was asked by the publisher at Fons Vitae to write a review of Thomas Block’s Shalom/Salaam: A Story of Mystical Fraternity, I felt a bit unsteady on my feet— and not only because we were ascending a narrow staircase from her office. But I consoled myself with the thought that if Gray was asking me to do this she must believe that I am capable. At first, I thought the review would be a gift that I delivered. I soon realized that the opportunity to practice the craft of writing was actually a gift that I had received.
Anyone who has tried to write with a deadline and word limitation knows the challenge that I faced. Another, perhaps self-imposed challenge was writing an artful critique that would reflect favorably on both the author of the book and the author of the review. As I read, I filled the book with Post-its and my journal with barely-legible notes. I was engrossed by the dual task of giving and receiving. Hours slipped away as I sat at my desk, falling in love with my own turn-of-phrase, inspired by what I described as Tom’s “carefully drawn masterpiece.” Good writing emerges from good reading.
Since submitting the book review nearly five months ago, I have been writing every day. A friend asked me if I ever sleep. I admit that I often fall short of the hours required for rejuvenating my brain. Still, when I dream of words floating above my head until they are selected to alight on the page, I awake with a sense of calm; and my feet are steady on the staircase.
Recommended Summer Reading: Parabola, Summer 2001 Issue: Giving & Receiving.
Two years ago I wrote more than 300 words about why I would not tweet. I was pretty adamant about it. But times have changed, and I have grown since then.
I have learned a lot from career counselor and friend Miriam Salpeter about using Twitter to keep up with news in my field and to share that information with interested parties. She was pretty adamant when she told me, “You’re a writer! Twitter is an ideal tool for a writer.” One useful exercise is finding a way to encapsulate my 300-word essays into 140-character messages. Perhaps, over time, tweeting will make me a better writer.
This past week, I have been devouring Miriam’s new book, Social Networking for Career Success, especially the chapters about Twitter. And I have been tweeting, a little.
Here are chirps from my week on Twitter:
- I found and posted an inspirational essay that expressed much of what I was feeling about the death of Osama bin Laden.
- I shared links to the Atlanta Jewish Times and the Jewish Writing Project, which published articles that I wrote.
- I enabled my account settings to automatically tweet a link to this blog post. It will be featured on my website’s front page banner next to an icon of a blue bird. I admit that it’s a little campy; still, I can’t help but smile when I log on and see my little Jaybird perched there.
Lesson of the week in just 84 characters: Social Media Tools—like all tools—can make a job easier when they are used properly.