The difference between loyalty and obedience — especially for writers and creators.

Leah Pellegrini
6 min readApr 7, 2022

Plus, Mary Oliver on the “third self.”

“The Mirror” by William Merritt Chase. Via Cincinnati Art Museum/Wikipedia.

I’m taking Tomato on his ordinary morning walk around the neighborhood, and I’m beginning to write this essay in my head, scrambling the ideas together. It’s due, see? I promised I’d publish a new one every week. I will keep my promise.

Mostly, I resist obligations and commitments, but not where writing is concerned. I feel loyal to writing, perhaps compulsively, which is not to say that I always act loyal to it. But when I abandon my creative work too regularly, I go entirely dysfunctional. I get resentful. I want to blame everything and everybody else for getting in the way of the thing I am here to do, don’t you get it?!?!?

So I’m tugging open-mouthed Tomato away from the pile of another dog’s left-behind poop, and I’m saying “uh-uh” and then “good boy” as I make him wait for the light to turn green at the crosswalk, and I’m trilling at him sweetly as he looks up with a tail wag, hoping for an extra treat he hasn’t really earned. I give it to him anyway. And all the while, my mind is molding sentences.

When we land back by the front door, I remember that it’s street cleaning day, so I have to move my car from its current spot down the block. I pop Tomato in the passenger’s seat, figuring it shouldn’t be too hard to find an open space on the opposite side of the road within a close radius. I’ll be home to my coffee and computer in five minutes.

I am wrong. We spend 20 minutes driving around in zigzags, Tomato just panting with confused contentment while I grow increasingly agitated. We keep passing the annoyingly cute little parking enforcement vehicle that’s zipping around, too, on the hunt for cars to ticket.

By the end, I’m ready to murder someone. I was supposed to be at my writing desk 20 minutes ago, but…parking tickets????? Am I really missing my precious creative time for something as absurdly stupid as this?????

And then, I realize what this essay is really supposed to be about.

In “Of Power and Time,” which might just be my favorite piece ever written about the specific challenges of an artist’s life, Mary Oliver posits that there are, within each of us…

Leah Pellegrini

Writer, farmer, etc, just trying to make Mama Nay proud.