I was not an English major. My heartfelt essays in high school often came back redlined, oblivious of the content. My love of reading and journaling came from the only English teacher I liked, Mrs. Geselschap from my junior year. She let us read what we wanted and often suggested great books. The journaling habit continues to this day.
I could always write decently when required, yet it was not something I chose to do, especially majoring in the natural sciences. So I’ve wondered as I have become a writer in my 60’s, with words oozing from my core, where did the ability to express myself in poetry and prose come from?
I’m a huge fan of Elizabeth Gilbert. She became instantly famous with her novel, Eat, Pray, Love but many readers don’t realize that she was a writer way before that and has published other noteworthy books. She writes a lot about creativity. If you haven’t read her book “Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear” it’s a great read on the subject. Also, she has a riveting TED Talk that is well worth a watch.
A friend forwarded this essay of hers on writing. I enjoyed this so much and thought I’d share. You could substitute the words creative, artist, or musician for the word writer and it would still apply.
Sometimes people ask me for help or suggestions about how to write, or how to get published. Keeping in mind that this is all very ephemeral and personal, I will try to explain here everything that I believe about writing. I hope it is useful. It’s all I know.
I believe that – if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression – that you should take on this work like a holy calling. I became a writer the way other people become monks or nuns. I made a vow to writing, very young. I became Bride-of-Writing. I was writing’s most devotional handmaiden. I built my entire life around writing. I didn’t know how else to do this. I didn’t know anyone who had ever become a writer. I had no, as they say, connections. I had no clues. I just began.
I have these two well-worn images tacked up on the way to my studio to remind myself not to get discouraged. Walk away, regroup, keep going one step at a time. They are also applicable to life in general……
I came across this lovely prose by Charlotte Eriksson as I perused the Goodreads website today. There is no title and is probably an excerpt from an essay. It is so appropriate for any one who is traveling the creative path…..
“… so this is for us.
This is for us who sing, write, dance, act, study, run and love
and this is for doing it even if no one will ever know
because the beauty is in the act of doing it.
Not what it can lead to.
This is for the times I lose myself while writing, singing, playing
and no one is around and they will never know
but I will forever remember
and that shines brighter than any praise or fame or glory I will ever have,
and this is for you who write or play or read or sing
by yourself with the light off and door closed
when the world is asleep and the stars are aligned
and maybe no one will ever hear it
or read your words
or know your thoughts
but it doesn’t make it less glorious.
It makes it ethereal. Mysterious.
For it belongs to you and whatever God or spirit you believe in
and only you can decide how much it meant
and will forever mean
and other people will experience it too
Through your spirit. Through the way you talk.
Through the way you walk and love and laugh and care
and I never meant to write this long
but what I want to say is:
Don’t try to present your art by making other people read or hear or see or touch it; make them feel it. Wear your art like your heart on your sleeve and keep it alive by making people feel a little better. Feel a little lighter. Create art in order for yourself to become yourself
and let your very existence be your song, your poem, your story.
Let your very identity be your book.
Let the way people say your name sound like the sweetest melody.
So go create. Take photographs in the wood, run alone in the rain and sing your heart out high up on a mountain
where no one will ever hear
and your very existence will be the most hypnotising scar.
Make your life be your art
and you will never be forgotten.”
Some of my favorite art is the cave paintings from Paleolithic times or the rock paintings from ancient Native Americans & Australian Aborigines. There is an ongoing debate about the purpose of this primitive type of art. I believe it was about story telling or merely leaving evidence of their existence, much like tracks. These images were made to be viewed by other people. A simple hand print on a wall is powerful. It says “I was here.”
When I ask the question to myself, will my art have a lasting impact on the world? The fact that I wrote or made is enough. It proves that I
was here. It tells part of my story, of my experience on this earth. Fame is not in my destiny but evidence will be. It is part of me I leave. If someone happens to connect with my work, I am most fulfilled.
I got this off Austin Kleon’s blog that inspired this post. His take on the subject is worth a visit. Keep on keeping on…….
I started this practice some months back. It just sort of happened with no premeditation. When I was in some random airport waiting for a connection, I spied some lovely little leather journals in a gift shop and thought “What a perfect place to write poetry!” The journal was purchased and is now over half full of poems and drafts of poems. In the morning I am either working on a poem, reading poetry or doing a combination of both, in bed, a cup of tea in hand with two furry dogs beside me for company. It’s been a delightful way to start my day, so much nicer than reading the news.