the literary life 12/31/10
I had this epiphany today that writing is no big deal. In the conventional sense, that is, of chasing workshops to master it or obsessing over one's ambitions. This is how I've been feeling lately. More than writing, sometimes, I love reading. I love words. I love language. Writing is essentially my ritual way of paying respect to something I care about. It's not as all-consuming as I once thought it need be; it's not as revolutionary as I once imagined either, though it is certainly magical. It's play, it's prayer, it's witnessing. It can be at some moments a real high. But I've grown suspicious of taking it too seriously. I enjoy it, but it doesn't occupy me in the way it once did. I'm detaching from the workshop, the increasing professionalism, the need to collaborate over writing and make it into something complicated. It's simple. It's something I like to do. I hope what I write might be useful to someone else. In the meantime, I know that putting my thoughts down on paper is useful for me--when the intention is to hone my awareness or capture the essence of something. But there seems to be a writing mania out there--a web of people trying to get their voices heard. I am one of them on a basic level. I want to engage and participate in the writing world. But I feel that I'm detaching from the cacophony a bit. I feel I'm letting go, and it's beautiful. It's a relief. I write better when the frenetic world of "how can I cultivate more figurative language here" falls away a bit. Is it a loss of ambition? I don't think so. I think it's accepting the fact that I don't want to be a workaholic writer; yet, paradoxically, it is one of the important ways I experience the world. It's a lens I choose to look through to remind myself over and over again how beautiful everything is. My work is teaching literature, waking up, and contributing to my sphere of influence. With the facility of getting writing "published", it is becoming harder to distinguish the writer from the written. Everybody who wants to writes. There's an endless line of people waiting to be read. There are shelves and shelves of well meaning books and blogs (like mine) sprouting all sorts of writing advice. We want to be told we're on to something special in our work. Yet when it boils done to the jugular of it, being a writer is about you and pen, or you and keyboard. It's about the impulse and the intention behind the impulse. Ask yourself why you write. What, at your core, is the reason you seek out the page? If you are willing to sacrifice everything to be a writer, are you asking the right question? I believe the luminous writing life is one in which we create with ferocity, love, and detachment. I don't want a co-dependent relationship with writing as I once thought. I want a companionship. Gibran said of marriage, "...let there be spaces in your togetherness"; this statement might also illuminate a writer's relationship to her writing. For so many years I feared that if I let this space open up between myself and my art, my ability to create would diminish. But the space is opening up, and I feel more at home in writing than I've ever been.