Writing is the axe that breaks the frozen sea within.” -Kafka
There’s something about writing that only writers can understand. That need to be in a quiet, private place for hours or an entire day in order to get out everything inside that’s screaming at you to be expressed. That drive to stay locked away alone and not talk to anyone, in person or on the phone, because it interferes with your spirit trying to make sense of something you can’t yet grasp. And you want to do all you can not to lose it because you have this deep sense that it is important, it’s something that needs to be said, needs to be recorded. And it’s so hard when your day job does not allow you enough time to express yourself in that way and you do not use your creativity to make your living. It takes a lot out of you and eventually you find yourself having one of those nights where you stay up until 2am just writing, or reading a book you’re really into but have not had the time to pick up. It ends up being really draining if you don’t devote any time at all to that creative impulse.
Some people use many different outlets for creativity, or they just try different things until they find something that feels right and they get a satisfying feeling from it. For me it has always been writing, ever since I was a little girl. Writing has given me that feeling that nothing else has. It feels natural to me, automatic. I get an actual physical urge to write a lot- to hold a pen between my fingers and play on the page. To say all those things I can never say aloud to the faithful pages of the journal. It’s where I can be my whole self, laid out and unashamed and unabashed. I could probably spend an entire day straight just writing- given the proper desk, a comfortable place, and silence, and a good pen.
I was reading a book of sonnets on the train the other. It’s a book by Edna St. Vincent Millay, one of my favorite poets. I was completely entranced. I like reading poetry now because it puts me back in touch with my youthful self, and I remember being an adolescent and just having all that time in the world available to me to dive into it and not have to emerge. It reminds me of how I first became mesmerized by the efficient use of language, the economy of saying so much using so few lines, the power of implication and mood, and the actual formality of the terminology and word usage of the poets of history. It would transform me and have this hold on me to the point where I felt I should’ve lived in those times. Those simpler times of Shakespeare, Millay, Keats, Lord Byron, e.e. cummings- when reality must have been somehow more real, unfiltered and unencumbered by technological distractions. It’s rare to get so close to living as those poets did who were able to capture and express it such rich detail.
I wonder what kind of magic it would take to stand out as a writer in today’s world. Is anyone centuries from now going to care about all the hundreds of thousands of people out there currently keeping journals and diaries? Will those who have had a few published pieces here and there be more likely to be sought after? Or do you have to be some tortured soul like the singer Kurt Cobain who had his journals swiftly published following his suicide?
I’m sure there are people out there, countless people, capturing truth in the words they keep hidden from the rest of the world. They must have profound reflections and enlightened moments and epiphanies that should be widely read and admired and praised. Within this shallow culture, I’m sure there are hordes of people out there seeking depth- seeking their own meaning behind life. And there must be others like me who are too afraid of some of their own inner turmoil to even get it down on paper. I fear that there won’t be enough words to properly express certain emotions or emotionally charged situations. I’m still trying to work up to those exercises where you are brutally honest and spill everything out on paper, and then rip the paper up or light it on fire. It’s still too frightening to even think about writing it out for my own eyes only.
Writing is weird like that. You can be so expressive and yet still be holding back. But for someone like me it’s a necessary thing. It allows my brain to work. I have to get down somewhere the way that I experience everything in the world, needing very deeply to be heard and understood. I write and reach out in the hope that someday someone will read my words and I will be vibrantly alive to them for a moment. I’ll be a presence in the room and touch something deep within them.
All those writers that I read today were alive once. They were living, breathing human beings going through this same exact human experience of being a body on earth for a length of time. They had all the normal human traits, faults and desires and natural talents. And the desire to capture it all with pen and paper, through poetry, journals, plays, fictional works. They shared a bit of themselves and are still alive whenever someone like me in the 21st century sits on a train on her way home from work smiling to herself after having read a sonnet. That is an enviable power; an enviable way to achieve immortality. It’s hard to be in a body and constantly be aware of the fact that one day it will die, it will no longer be. So the urge to stay relevant usually arises next. Some people satisfy the urge by having children, some by performing on stage, some by writing books, some by dedicating themselves to helping the less fortunate, some by living for God as a priest or a nun. Everyone needs their something to make them feel they will carry on. And I notice that a lot of creative people- like writers and artists, express this feeling of mortality, and where they wish to reside for eternity, and what they want to have last through time and be remembered long after they are gone. People deal with this in different ways. and I wonder sometimes if all of life is about finding the best way to deal with it.
My former meditation teacher said that everything that is created artistically- whether it be a song, or a poem, or a painting- already exists as a complete thing and it is simply channeled through a human being from the divine. The person gives it a tangible form, but it already and always exists in the divine. That’s how a lot of poets and song writers explain it as well- they’ll say the song seemed to ‘write itself’ or a particular poem just ‘came out of them’ or in the case of painters, they’ll say things like ‘something just took me over’ and the painting was completed by some unseen inner force. Organically, naturally, divinely.
But you have to be a particular kind of person to be attuned to it. An observant, sensitive person with a gift for seeing, absorbing, processing and finally expressing that divine gift.
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