Tyler, who has lived in Baltimore since 1967, has set almost all of her 19 novels in Charm City. Yet, she says, “when I answer questions about Baltimore, I feel like an impostor.” Somewhere, she suspects, “the grandmothers are whispering, ‘She doesn’t know a thing about Baltimore!’”
After living in Baltimore for much of her life, writing 19 novels, and receiving the Pulitzer Prize (among other awards), Anne Tyler still feels like an impostor. She still wonders if someone might point out all she doesn’t know about the city she’s lived in and written about for 45 years.
I’ve not read her books, but I’m so glad her fear of someone pointing and laughing and telling her she’s wrong hasn’t kept her from writing anyway. Because watching and reading about the world’s Anne Tylers gives me courage, reminds me that even though it sometimes seems as though I’m standing in a circle of straight up fear, I do not stand there alone. That maybe that circle is for the brave ones, a prerequisite to beauty and influence.
We can let fear shut us up, or we can roll it up like a newspaper and shout life through the center like a megaphone. And even if someone’s already said it, or someone else could say it better, or if comes out all messy and wrong, we will still be breathing. The clock will still tick by another minute. The sun will still come up in the morning. Because the world spinning ’round does not actually depend upon my being right. Shocking, I know.
Would we always hide from wrong? Because maybe wrong carries a gift in his hands, reminding us of our smallness. Our need. Our humanity.
Pick up the pen, the needle, the dish, the fabric, the gardening shovel. Move to the rhythm of that thing that makes your heart come alive. And as the questions and taunting and mocking begin, as the voices say you don’t know a thing about Baltimore, smile. Agree. Be willing to learn. Open your eyes. And tell us what you know.