I recently started reading 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write: On Umbrellas and Sword Fights, Parades and Dogs, Fire Alarms, Children, and Theatre by Sarah Ruhl. Ruhl is a playwright and as such, her writing focuses on play writing which is not a topic I typically think all that much about.
I picked up the book because I loved the title. What’s not to love about a book filled with the things you actually don’t have the time to do? I think it is a clever format and one I might, in fact, borrow someday for an essay of my own but I am digressing before I have even begun…
There are a few gorgeous quotes in the book about writing as a parent pulled from others and also written by Ruhl herself.
Take this for example:
“More than any other human relationship, overwhelmingly more, motherhood means being instantly interruptible, responsive, responsible. Children need one now…It is distraction, not meditation, that become habitual; interruption, not continuity.”
-Tillie Olsen, Silences
“I found that life intruding on writing was, in fact, life. And that, tempting as it may be for a writer who is also a parent, one must not think of life as an intrusion. At the end of the day, writing has very little to do with writing, and much to do with life. And life, by definition, is not an intrusion.”
Of course, though and not surprisingly, my favorite piece in the book is about reading aloud.
Ruhl begins the piece by explaining that reading was originally only done aloud. It wasn’t until the time of Augustine (350s), when privacy was invented (apparently privacy was invented?) that reading to oneself even became a thing you did.
How amazing it is to think how much this has changed, how little we read aloud in comparison to how things once were. Ruhl writes, “Now all of our acts of reading and writing are instantly transmittable, in silence. In the digital age, we read and digest texts and silently text back, never having read them out loud.”
But then she says the thing that I loved most of all…
“When children are small, we tell them to make a circle and we read to them. When they grow up, we tell them to sit in a corner and read to themselves. In the theater, we ask adults to be children again, to sit in a circle and be read to.”
How lovely this is… we ask adults to be children again. And I challenge us to do the same with our children. To ask our children to be children again and read aloud as often and long as we can. Even and especially after they can read to themselves because there is still something inherently important in hearing the written word spoke aloud.