Last night I was going through an old notebook when the following words jumped at me.
The very activity which gives me the greatest pleasure makes me suffer beyond anything. Writing doesn’t come to me in sentences or paragraphs. It comes in words or phrases, the disjointed blurb which makes sense only to my muddled mind with lots of blank spaces where a keyword is missing. I am forever looking for the right word to complete that thought, word that exists in my mind, the word that I have read so many times before but I cannot seems to recall it. Sometimes I find its closest companion. Then begins the task of compiling the incoherent rambling in some sort of order so that it makes some sense at all. Why do I torture myself with all this day in and day out? Why do I bother? Why can’t I be like other girls? Looking for new cosmetics instead and having a facelift at the new parlour of which they have taken membership all paid for by their lovers or husbands.
I don’t even know who the original writer of these words is, I failed to record it. But I recorded these words because they describe my state of mind and perhaps of every writer’s state of mind working on their craft.
Writing is hard but it bears a lot of gifts. Over time I am beginning to understand that writing itself is a gift given to only a select few. It gives you an opportunity to live life with an intensity not available to everyone.
Writing motivates you to look closely at life as it lurches by and tramps around, says Anne Lamott. She finds in writing what Carl Sagan found in science — profound awe, deep reverence, a source of spiritual elevation.
She writes in Bird by Bird:
In order to be a writer, you have to learn to be reverent. If not, why are you writing? Why are you here? … Think of reverence as awe, as a presence in and openness to the world. Think of those times when you’ve read prose or poetry that is presented in such a way that you have a fleeting sense of being startled by beauty or insight, by a glimpse into someone’s soul. All of a sudden everything seems to fit together or at least to have some meaning for a moment. This is our goal as writers, I think; to help others have this sense of — please forgive me — wonder, of seeing things anew, things that can catch us off guard, that break in on our small, bordered worlds. When this happens, everything feels more spacious.[…]
There is ecstasy in paying attention. You can get into a kind of Wordsworthian openness to the world, where you see in everything the essence of holiness.
If you give freely, there will always be more. … It is one of the greatest feelings known to humans, the feeling of being the host, of hosting people, of being the person to whom they come for food and drink and company. This is what the writer has to offer.Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird
She goes on to say:
Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.
Bird by Bird is a must read for writers, a gift by a writer to the writers to understand gift of writing given to them by god.