For a while I had a quote from Anne Lamott on my refrigerator: “As we live, we begin to learn what helps in life and what hurts.” I’m afraid that many of the stories we tell each other every day hurt, not because they are necessarily untrue but because they do not contain the possibility of hope or change. I’d like to tell some stories that help. They may be purely joyful or they may contain some sadness or pain because without those we wouldn’t need help.
I believe help surrounds us in many forms: the generosity of a houseplant that continues to thrive despite my best efforts to neglect it, that last streak of pale yellow rinsed from the sky just before dark blue gives way to night’s black, the perfect gooey sweetness of a well-toasted s’more. And perhaps most importantly, community.
Communities are like weeds–they spring up all over the place in uncontrollable and unpredictable ways. Last night, I attended my first hobnob. The couple who organizes these gatherings uses the etymology to explain the evening to newcomers: “in the sense ‘drink together; drink each other’s health.'” The practice is to show up, munch on whatever arrives, and chat with whoever comes–no stressful preparation for hosts or guests.
I confess that I went mainly in search of single, straight men in their late thirties or early forties, of which I found none. I did, however, meet a number of delightful men and women, gay and straight, in their fifties and sixties. Among them was a man, we’ll call him Tom, whose son is a poet and who overheard me talking about the novel I recently finished. (Kudos to the host and hostess for creating such a welcoming atmosphere–revealing my secret novelist identity to strangers still scares me.)
Tom found me later in the evening to ask about my writing, and I gave the elevator speech description of the novel’s plot. In return, I had the privilege of hearing the love and admiration in his voice as he talked about his son. Tom is a retired physician, and his son’s life as a writer–working as adjunct faculty, going through the process of submission and rejection–is a new world for him.
I think parents may worry, and with good cause, when their children announce they want to do something as financially risky as writing, but Tom is thoroughly impressed with his son and the lifestyle he’s chosen for himself in spite of, or perhaps because of, its difference from his own. He enjoys discovering who his son is, and I imagine being in the presence of that enjoyment would raise anyone’s spirits; it certainly raised mine.
At the end of our conversation Tom said to me, “It’s nice to know there’s someone like you here.” Talk about a ray of light in the darkness. My current litany of self doubts runs something like this, “No one will ever buy this book, especially since I don’t spend enough time sending out query letters, and what’s this crazy blog thing and how can I have time to do any of it between my day job and exercising?” So knowing that someone besides my mom (sorry, Mom) thinks my existence, both as myself and as a writer, is worthwhile helps, a lot. Community at work.
Thank you, Tom, and thanks also to your son for having the courage to pursue his writing and by so doing to inspire and remind me to pursue mine. For all of you artists and writers and everyone who feels as if the rest of the world has it all figured out while you find life rather puzzling, someone in your community, whether you’ve met this person or not, is grateful there’s someone like you here.
8 thoughts on “Inspired by a Hobnobber”
How sweet! The website is beautiful, and has a great purpse. Of course I already go to you for help but now I can come here, too. No need to be sorry. Soon many, many people will read your book and be glad there is someone like you here.
Awesome, Rachel. You’ve brought tears to this artist who exists in a beautiful, sometimes lonely and challenging world. I do appreciate your writing and still want to read your book. Please bring one next time we meet and I’ll make the purchase.
Rachel, you are just so amazing. I respect and admire you so much. I am so thankful God put you here on this earth. In my heart of hearts I know you will be published and you will find an incredible guy in your life! Your blog is awesome and I so look forward to reading more, crying more, and laughing more.
Love the blog and the sentiment. You wrote a wonderful novel! I really believe that, 20+ plus years ago, when we had a real publishing industry that looked for well-written books and put them out and then helped them to, and hoped they would, find an audience, your novel would already be out there. Hang in there!
Thanks for the sentiment on building community through hobnobbing. Inspiration and support are two prerequisites of success. We all win when one of us wins.
Thanks, Eric. It sounds so official and solid when the business expert says it.
I’m Barbara W. and I think I met you at Eric’s house. Anyway, congratulations on your blog and on your novel. You sound like an interesting person and I look forward to really meeting you again and talking to you. I look forward to reading your book too!
Thanks for reading! I will look for you the next time I’m at a hobnob.