November 29th, 2011
Writing sweats it out of you, sometimes turnip blood, sometimes holy water, but the act is always a birth, a labor to be endured with sturdy legs and open mouth. There’s such pain rooted in the craft, which is inexorably tied to bliss, both binding together in a paroxysm of creation. A single burst of inspiration sometimes. A hard-scrabble bout with crippling insecurity others. And you never apprehend the way it ekes from you – a spurt, a stream, a leak? – to make it happen just the same way twice. Words are water, writing is wind; it puffs, it squalls, it sings; it hauls you up, it plants you down. I know this all to be true, every unsettling consequence, and still I puzzle it out, usually in the midst of a tunnel I’m scrambling from, clutching scraps of paper with messages I’ve scrawled and bled out: Why all this fuss, all this fracas? Must I twist in the labyrinth, search for words, trust them to lead me somewhere I’ve never been?
Yes. Because the the light gleams in the nethers and I will forever coax it out. The shadows bubble there, too, somewhere profound and bottomless, and it’s equally important to summon their mournful stories of closed bedroom doors and the girl waiting inside. I’m not always ready for the surfacing, but I welcome what comes because the girl needs me to bust open the door. But sadly, so sadly many writers shut it. Told one time or another they’re no good, they should stop trying, or worse, they’re not writers. Somberly still, these arrows of criticism are sometimes slung by the people closest to us, and those are the deepest gashes to the soul. That kind of silence is the heaviest of all, a thunder clap that erases all else but the voices in a writer’s head. Belief in self is unyielding for some; but for writers, it can be wearisome and a mountain to scale with scabby fingers and burned-up spirit.
It takes some of us years to shed the belief that our words have no value, don’t hold worth; that we should shut up because who wants to hear what we have to say.
So why would someone, anyone, especially another writer, join the army of voices in your head?
We all know what it’s like, the sweat, the shadows, the silence. Put down your battle axe.
The wind calls us both to the labyrinth.