Vita Brevis, Longa Ars (Life is short, Art is long)
I spent some time recently with a childhood friend. Her name is Molly and she lives in San Francisco now, but we grew up together in Brighton, Michigan. As kids, we were the kind of friends who could finish each other’s sentences. Intimate knowledge of how each of our minds worked had been forged over long summer days. I can remember running as fast as I could to keep up with her, watching the backs of her heels kick up the dust covering our street as the calliope of our laughter mingled in the air. Together, we imagined freedom, navigated hissing snakes, strived to reach the center of things, attempted to climb the sky. She was my partner in trying to be.
Everyone should have a friend like Molly
Whenever I see her, it’s like we turn the dial back to that time when I knew her by heartbeat. It’s effortless—we always pick up where we left off. This visit she brought a copy of my book with her for me to sign and asked me what inspired me to write it (because she had been telling me to write a book since we were young and she wanted to know why I finally did it). Of course, as you may suspect, she had a hand in it.
In 2007, Molly had sent me a book for my birthday. It was entitled: I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak. The book is about Ed Kennedy, an underage cabdriver who has a coffee-drinking dog named The Doorman and a secret crush on his best friend Audrey. Ed has a peaceful routine until the day he inadvertently stops a bank robbery. After that day, Ed becomes the messenger.
The book, written in the first person present tense, was funny and heart pounding and sad and euphoric. It read like you could step into Ed’s shoes, breathe his air, see what he is seeing. In short, it was amazing. But, there was a message at the end of the story that struck me as if it was written just for me. It says, quote: “Maybe everyone can live beyond what they’re capable of…I’m not the messenger at all. I’m the message.”
I knew instantly that I had to try to write a book because maybe I was able to live beyond what I always thought I was capable of.
It took me several more months to work out that I could do it. I kept saying to Tom (my husband), “I should write a book, don’t you think? Do you think I should write a book? What if I wrote a book?” Finally, Tom gave me his MacBook and said, “Here, write a book!” * Translation: Sheesh, woman, stop bugging me! * (But in a cute, sweet way.)
He never got that laptop back.
I named the first file: Here We Go. I began to write with the thought that it was just for me and that I would never show it to anyone—it was just an experiment to see if I could do it. That mindset gave me the freedom to write anything I wanted. Everything I wanted. I was under no obligation to censor it in any way because, hey, I was the only one who would ever read it, right?
It was ON.
Soon after I started writing, I began to hear the characters I created. Literally. They would wake me up in the middle of the night—talking. (I know it’s weird, but really, really cool, too. BTW, Russell talks the most and is always the funniest.) I call whatever it is that happens “catching the stream” because once I began to hear the characters speak, it was like I was floating easily down a river. I just had to type what they (the characters) said. They sometimes took me places I never expected the story would go. It was literally like I was watching a movie in my mind and I just needed to describe it in words so that it made sense on paper.
Then, in about four months, I finished it. (The 170K rough draft, that is.)
A strange daring happened to me after that: I let the story escape from my computer and into the dreams of others. I don’t know where it will go from here. All the rest is up to the universe.
Now, getting back to Molly. Because she is the type of friend she is, she didn’t just buy one copy of my book for me to sign, she bought a box of my books. One copy for each of her family members (which is substantial because she has seven brothers and sisters including Marianne), one for the Brighton Library, one for the St. Pat’s Library, and a few more for whoever she deems worthy.
Vita Brevis, Longa Ars –it’s Latin. It means: life is short, art is long. (Or: life is brief, art is lasting.) You see, Molly recognizes something that most of us don’t. There is an art to friendship—a finesse, and if you do it right, it’s lasting—eternal. She is a golden friend, the kind that most people never know...and she is still my partner in trying to be. Thank you, Molly.