Friday, August 26, 2016

A Writer Is

A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as he is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he hadn't started to say them.

- Wm. Stafford, "A Way of Writing"

* * *

As above, so below.

* * *

I have come to disbelieve in the idea of outcomes, end points, products, completeness, finality, terminus, omega, the definitive, once-and-for-all, the drolleries of certitude, and the sense of an ending. Not that these things don't exist, but that I have abandoned their presumed utility and dominance. All stories stop. My story will stop some day - the wherefore and why to be determined - but until that very moment all that matters is engaging with the life I have. This point of view squarely values the process of living over any thing made along the way.

Creativity, in the arts, in putting one foot in front of the other, has become a commodity to be monetized. The pervasiveness of turning everything into a dollar soaks into every pore. Writers struggle for publication, a measure of result, cultural heft, an audience. So, too, painters, dancers, sculptors, actors and the whole of the fine arts, but more so in the creativity we expend as parents, siblings, co-workers, bosses, husbands and wives and friends. This creates a linear life with specific rest stops along the way. It is a matriculated life. And that is fine, but it is just one way of encountering this experience. Just because it dominates doesn't mean it is the better way for you. It dominates because it is the lowest common denominator with articulated rules that even if you hate them, you know them.

What Stafford suggests occurs in his writing, that things arrive and as they arrive they lead to other things you couldn't have intentionally set out for, I will suggest occurs in our lives and if we pay attention we can be brought into a different sort of life than the fucked up jumble we have. This new life has no religion other than its faith in meeting what happens next. Out of that encounter between who we are at that moment and the arrival of a thought or idea or understanding we didn't see coming a new, third, thing emerges and so leads to the next arrival and its interaction with who we have just become and so on.

This is a meandering life. At least from the outside, from the world of productivity and judgment, but there is an internal logic that sustains it: the process is greater than any of its effects.

To get here it requires not having something to say, but the willingness to discover what might be said.

* * *

There is an over-ripeness to the banality that things change, that the only constant is change. It is spoken as if it were an acted on wisdom, but in truth those ideas that change surrounds us at every moment is an entrenchment to resist change, to withdraw, to not hope for too much, to acquiesce to fate. It has the effect of getting in line, shutting up and being thankful for what you have. I am all for gratitude, but not the meek and timid kind, the kind printed on a t-shirt or shared as a meme. No, the only gratitude I can offer is for the chance to try again, to keep working, my feet to fly, the world to see, the mystery of our breath set aside to breathe in the mystery. 

There is nothing rote or safe or known before hand. It frightens and thrills. It tests and saves. It calls and you respond. And here's the thing: when the hour comes and there's no voice left in your throat another will take up the cause and so keep us discovering who we may yet be. And those effects that I don't believe in anymore, those products and creations? They become part of what those who come later will encounter and process and transform in their time. The only value I can see in these effects (poems, children, songs, gardens, laws, dances, stories, images, films, trees planted, students taught) is in the message at the root of each one: you are not alone.

* * *

Your exact errors make a music
that nobody hears.
Your straying feet find the great dance,
walking alone.
And you live in a world where stumbling
always leads home.

Year after year fits over your face–
when there was youth, your talent
was youth;
later, you find your way by touch
where moss redeems the stone;

And you discover where music begins
before it makes any sound,
far in the mountains where canyons go
still as the always-falling, ever-new flakes of snow.

- Wm. Stafford, "You and Art"

* * *

I wish you well.


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