I love writing. I love it so much I could eat it. Marry it. Make babies with it. Drown in it. Die through it as I live inside it.
It is my hands and feet, my voice, the extension to a strange, unpredictable heart I couldn’t understand otherwise. While engaged in it, I forget how to speak, how to drink or eat, I pass out and into words. And then I wake up, more sober than before.
In this hearty-finger business, we must die to our smaller selves daily by forcing ourselves past the gates of hell and fighting with words for our aliveness — until we reach our truest, eternal nature.
Writing is our imperfect, healing mirror. Through it, we detox from years of spiritual and mental malnourishment, meditate, connect, restart — it leads us home. It breaks us and mends us at once. It crushes our ego and resurrects us to a more whole, unabridged and reader-friendly version of ourselves.
Speaking of which… I just had a date with Rainer Maria Rilke to get some more Writing Lab advice.
We sat in an early 1900’s Prague cafe. He was wearing black as usual — I went for Christmas red. (How kitsch.)
I said, “Sir, I thank you dearly for teaching me how to love my solitude. Now, my self-doubt has another question.”
“Ah, Doubt, the writer’s evil twin,” he laughed and asked for more wine. I tried to keep my composure.
“How do you hear your call more clearly, Sir? When doubt pours all over your paragraphs and it leaks through your (virtual) pen, how do you know this is your revolution? How to be certain that you’re not just a damn delusional fool, wasting the planet’s trees (or pixels)? How would you answer this for yourself, dear, fascinating Sir?
He stared into my troubled eyes, fully aware that as soon as he gave it to me, I’d hurry back to 2012 to type it up for you here:
“Go into yourself,” he said. “Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.
This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple ‘I must,’ then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.
Then come close to Nature. Then, as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose…
Describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty –describe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity and, when you express yourself, use the Things around you, the images from your dreams, and the objects that you remember.
If your everyday life seems poor, don’t blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is not poverty and no poor, indifferent place.
And even if you found yourself in some prison, whose walls let in none of the world’s sounds – wouldn’t you still have your childhood, that jewel beyond all price, that treasure house of memories?
Turn your attentions to it. Try to raise up the sunken feelings of this enormous past; your personality will grow stronger, your solitude will expand and become a place where you can live in the twilight, where the noise of other people passes by, far in the distance.
And if out of this turning-within, out of this immersion in your own world, poems come, then you will not think of asking anyone whether they are good or not… you will see them as your dear natural possession, a piece of your life, a voice from it.
A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity. That is the only way one can judge it.”
I clapped with my fingers as loud as I could.
In other words, we don’t write because we want to be “writers” or because it’s easy or because the world has just ended and we’re stranded on a desert island with plenty of food and love and water and no other distraction than a pen and a thousand white pages to fill… no wifi! (Don’t tell me you’ve never had this fantasy).
So we write. We write, in spite and because of our smaller, powerless selves, our busyness, our unbelievers and detractors, our brokenness, distractions and self-doubt. And because the beauty of this agonizing world demands to be reported, pointed out, whispered out loud, over the rooftops.
We write simply because we can’t help it.
It’s a little bit like love. It’s not something you plan because it’s ‘good for you.’ It’s something you fall into because you’re made from the same material. So falling is your inevitable way of returning home.
From so much wanting and so much doing, and believing, you finally turn into your art. And this becoming will save you from quitting and it will soothe the growth pains you’ll suffer even from the most constructive critique.
Your heart-turned-art, will rescue you from the feelings of not-enoughness, from all your neon distractions, and all the mind debris that stands in the way of your lifetime practice.
When you become your writing, nothing (no one) can stop you. Not even death—if anything, death seems to seal your work and make you even more immortal. Your words become your absent body, defying time and space and gravity, something you’re not as free to do, while still human.
Isn’t this just another way to live forever?
Take it as a curse or as a blessing, but take it. May Zeus strike you with eternal dissatisfaction and spiritual dehydration if you dare to ignore your call. If it comes bursting out of you, you have no excuse or forgiveness—in any real or invented world—for swallowing it back.
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