Rachel Lyon Recommends...

“One irony of being a writer is that we work alone, but the purpose of our medium—language itself—is communication. The word communication shares a common ancestor, of course, with common, which took on a snooty connotation in the late 1500s, but has always meant ‘belonging to a group.’ To communicate then is to offer up one’s thoughts to the collective. Solitary, on the other hand (from the Old French soul, meaning ‘only’), is about a hundred years newer than common and its relatives. Some etymologists fancy a relationship between solitary and the English soul. And yes, to access that deep place within where real truth lives, I write alone. But to keep me honest, humble, and clearheaded enough to tell a story that begins there, I require friends. By mail or phone or face-to-face we tell each other stories, and our (funny, sad, sacred) exchanges remind me of the point of all this fumbling with language: to commune. If no friend is available I might pick up a chatty memoir—lately Stephen King’s On Writing (Scribner, 2000) has done the trick—or a smart essay by the likes of Anne Fadiman, Zadie Smith, Rebecca Solnit, M. F. K. Fisher, or E. B. White. What my favorites have in common (there is that word again) is a sense of humor, a frank unblinking clarity, and a way of keeping the reader company with their thoughts and stories. After all, story (from the Latin historia) is one of the oldest and most enduring words of all.”
—Rachel Lyon, author of Self-Portrait With Boy (Scribner, 2018)