Letter from the Director – March 2023

Is it Sacrifice, or is it Commitment?

I was eating dinner with a friend a few weeks ago, sharing stories and ideas. I told him about our RWC Newsletters and how we were choosing a word to dissect each month. I shared that we were toying with the word “Sacrifice” for March, but finding it to be a little heavy on the tongue, and heart for that matter. It has so many connotations. I added that we considered what we would sacrifice for our writing, or for the writers’ colony. He looked at me.

“Is that sacrifice, or is it commitment?” he asked. 

I said, “More. Tell me more about what you mean by that.” Thus began my exploration into the nuances between those words. 

Sacrifice is the act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important. It feels like a loss, even though it’s chosen, even though it’s a decision. It has a kind of bitter taste. Western culture frowns on sacrifice. We shouldn’t have to give up anything. We deserve to have it all, right? Maybe that’s why the word felt odd to me. And yet, the more I thought about it, the more I believed it plays a part in a writing life and in the existence of the colony. But, then so does commitment. I began to see these two words as a pair, spiraling around each other to create a tight cord. 

Commitment is the state of being dedicated to a cause or activity. We’re committed to our writing projects. I’m committed to the success of the colony in order to secure this space for future writers. That notion seems acceptable. It’s a truth that feels settled and real.

And then came a storm – the kind of storm that bears wind gusts of 60 mph and driving rain. Our buildings are old and fragile. So are our trees. Every storm makes me grit my teeth with concern. Surveying the property for downed limbs or damage to wood siding, I looked towards the carriage house and noticed a large piece of the roof was gone. Where the green metal strips used to be, I saw only brown (and wet) plywood. Inside, I first heard, then found, water dripping from the ceiling onto the floor. 

A week or so later, a roofer walked across the top of the carriage house, surveying the damage. His report was not unexpected. Our 25-year-old roof, now damaged, and to tell the truth, long in need of replacement, needed to be . . . well, replaced. The estimate was also not unexpected, but it wasn’t in the budget for 2023. It would be now. (And before you ask, yes, we have insurance! We also have a high deductible!)

“Sacrifice or commitment?” I asked myself. 

If I’m committed to the success of the colony, then these random maintenance issues must be addressed. In some ways, it feels like sacrifice because I had other plans for that money. The Carriage House has to have a roof though, so I chose the more important item. We’ll work to rebuild the finances.

With your writing, you may feel committed to your work. You may even, at some point, feel like you’ve sacrificed something for the sake of your craft. I think the point is this: what we may give up in the short term can be countered by the joy we gain in the long term. You get to decide how much your work matters and where it lands in your list of priorities. 

I found this quote from soccer phenom, Pele: “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” 

The final word, which seems to pop up amid so many of my musings, is love. Do what you do for love and it will usually turn out fine.