I wrote the below last week, in a snowstorm. I want to remind you to check the previous post, some good newsy stuff to notice, and to let you know that Grand Web Master Brian Tanaka has pointed to January 11 for the likely release of The Stories of Devil-girl novella-download, so expect more news soon. In the meantime, see below, and come to the Intermedia Arts Readings in Minneapolis on January 7 and 9th…….
Currently caught in one of those — turn them over and shake them — globes, and the snow swirls and settles, and you shake them and the wild dancing of particles starts up again. But here’s the thing, I have been having some of the most serious conversations in a writer’s life, in many forms, with many writers that I love. We are, so many of us, caught in the swirl of activity, of being led away, subtly or dramatically, from the work of writing. Some of us love to write; some of us teach writing to wonderful students, some of whom claim they hate to write, and we give heart/soul to try to transform that into love or at least tolerance. Some of us have been writing steadily for decades. Some, in spurts. Some, in stolen moments.
But there is a shift for some of us, regardless of our schedules or genres, that, in a way, changes everything. For some of us, and this is not a necessary state of being for us all, writing is at the center of what organizes our being. I quoted this elsewhere, but it bears repeating; from a Carson McCullers’ story, “A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud.” A man is talking about the love of his life, a woman who left him, and says something to the effect of this: she was like the assembly line for my soul.
Writing is that for many of us. It organizes our lives. It assembles the pieces of us. It reclaims everything we are, everywhere we have lived, everyone we have loved. Everyone we have been. It vindicates, in some way, all that we have endured. It uses everything we have experienced, whether our specific experience fills our writing directly or invisibly, mysteriously, in subterranean and complex ways.
We fight it. Life helps us fight that integration, that surrender to a process that will bring us joy and growth because it is so hard; because it seems like a recluse’s way, and not really living; because there is a huge contradiction between the world of writing that bears gifts which circulate, and the world of writing which produces commodities; between our love for writing and our need to deal with the marketplace to bring it forward.
If you haven’t, please look at The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, by Lewis Hyde, at his discussion of art in the gift economy, versus, art in the market economy. Powerful, looking at this, and thinking about the impact of that marketplace on what we feel the worth of our writing is. Helpful, to refocus our understanding of what we do and see how it is part of a gift economy. Something in this is key for me in getting it–what we do as writers–and understanding why it can be so hard to feel the worth of what we do under the looming neon of the marketplace.
For many of us, we fight writing because it is the very thing we love doing the most. For many of us, we fight writing because we have incorporated whatever tells us that the only story in us is the story of our worthlessness, and so of course we are unworthy of being writers, and undeserving of the joy of our true vocation.
Rethinking our lives is something everyone does, writer or no, published or no, poet or storyteller, and transforming and healing our lives is something that writing does whether we consciously embrace that in the work, or not. Writing authentically, writing that demands inner exploration and search, with powerful connectedness to the world, transforms you. Bringing forth your experience and your witnessing, your memory and your imagination, integrates the pieces of your being. Developing the voice that can do all this, develops your being, expands your identity, makes possible your understanding of yourself at a new level. Makes identity. Makes growth.
So, the thing is, some of us write and benefit in a myriad of ways by the process. It’s incredible, we love it. And some of us struggle to a place where we realize that there is nothing to be done but to admit writing is at the center of what we do and who we are, that it is the way to integrate the pieces of our being, to heal, to grow our voice, our self, to come home to that which we are. For many, writing is prayer; for many, politics; for many, therapy; for many, love; for many recovery; for many, joy. It’s the simple Joseph Campbell statement in action, “Follow your bliss.”
My questions especially to you who ache to make writing your central organizing action at this point in life — which incidentally does not mean you leave your relationships and lock yourself up in a cabin in the woods (oops, it could), or abandon the world and your concern for it — and as well to those who just love to write, are these:
What will your life look like when you give writing its true place in it?
What do you want to spend the next decade doing in terms of your writing?
What do you need to change to be that writer, that person?
What do you need to do, to make that change?
Some huge list of tasks and revamping of your life?
Or, do you need to merely acknowledge the true place of writing in your life, and allow that full acceptance of your writing to do its work, re-organizing, reassembling, your life?
What do you need to do today, to make it so, to follow that bliss?
How wonderful, to ask the questions.
And of course, there is so much to be said about this sweet and bitter year. We want better for this planet, yes? Perhaps death should take a holiday.
Peace, from the swirl of snow,
This Thursday I will be one of the featured writers on Write on Radio, which airs every THURSDAY 11 am – noon central time on 90.3 FM www.kfai.org. Shows are archived for two weeks on line. Thanks, Aand 106.7 FM St. Paul and live on the web at