Tuesday, April 30, 2013

In Which I Discover That No Writer is an Island...

Russian writer Evegny Chirikov, by Ivan Kulikov, 1904
It's been a long four months since my last post, and longer still since I've posted something fresh. I've heard it said that "as man proposes, God disposes", and though I'm not much for believing, I can see the aphorism's truth well enough. Now, I can pretend at a great many excuses as to why I seemed, for all intents and purposes, to have completely abandoned the cause, but the truth is it wasn't the cause I'd abandoned, but the comrades, my brothers- and sisters-in-arms. True, I'd let the various slings and arrows of not-quite-so-outrageous fortune lead me to a rather dismal place, but it was my own foolhardy decision to read these events as omens which heralded a season of solitude. It is perhaps instinctive, particularly for those who make a habit of exploring their injuries, to feel that compulsion to hunker down and tend to the wounds. But in that abysmal, lonesome sulking, I found no comfort whatsoever. Worse yet, I found no art. 

Many of us need, from time to time, to be disabused of the old myth regarding suffering and art, as if the latter cannot exist without the former. It seems so simple, as so many across every field of artistic achievement have seemed to rely on the transmutation of pain to create the masterpieces of old. And, to be sure, there is something to be said for the degree to which the agony and angst of existence inform the artist's vision. But just as man does not live on bread alone, neither does the artist need merely to suffer sufficiently for his or her art to be born. Despite my best efforts to play the alchemist and turn my languishing into skillful language, I can only claim to have discovered new depths to the curse of writer's block. It seemed to spread, until it pervaded my being entire. At the worst of the winter season, my entire life became similarly frozen, and I despaired such that I could never imagine writing so much as a grocery list again. What I found lacking at the heart of the matter, apart from my agency as a writer, was a proper environment in which to work. For all my romanticism, the existence I'd shaped for myself during those months was inadequate to the cause. I had all the tools of my trade, but no fellow tradesmen. Sadly, it has taken me far longer than I should like to realize I cannot, and likely will never be able to, do this alone. 
The Algonquin Round Table, from L-R: Art Samuels, Charlie MacArthur, Harpo Marx, Dorothy parker, and Alexander Woollcott

As a friend and fellow aspirant recently paraphrased, "Writers should never write in a vacuum." I should like to go a step further and suggest that, by and large, most writers could never write in a vacuum. Whether we rely on each other for technical advice, anecdotal input, or the simple camaraderie of sharing the same passion for language and its myriad uses, we writers need each other, as much as we need our favorite novels, our handy style guides, or the very pens with which we write. In my isolation, I felt as if I were stranded in a world which cared little, if indeed at all, for me, my thoughts, my imaginings. It became the most self-centered of perspectives, and yet also the most self-defeating. Now, having recently reached out to the aforementioned friend and others who answer to the same vocation's calling, I've felt myself warming, much as the weather has finally begun to do. Gone is the crushing weight of pressure which I'd placed on myself, supplanted by the gentle urgings and encouragement of others. It no longer seems impossible to think that I might have something worth saying, or better still, worth reading once it's been said.

We all do, and from that meager monosyllable of "we" do I find the bitter season running, as murky darkness rushes off in the presence of new light. No writer is an island, and had I known that sooner, I may have had something to read for those who have visited this site despite the dearth of new material. With any luck, and the usual amount of effort, I hope to remedy that, for whatever it may be worth. Maybe some writer, struggling as I had been, will stumble upon this very post, and the realization will spread. Maybe I'll read his or her blog next. And maybe, instead of the erstwhile season of bitter and paralyzing cold, this will be the beginning of a new season of warmth, of welcome, and most importantly, of writers.

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