From the window seat in our master bedroom, looking through the French doors into my study, I can see the white bookcases, lining one wall. They remind me of honeycombs we kept on the farm, books now the honey that my bees/mind goes after. They also are why I write, so I may add my own work to that collection.
Working on this current novel is an exercise in trust, writing and seeing where it all leads, believing that if I create interesting characters, that’s enough. Letting go of my expectations to impress or create an important work. Otherwise, I’ll be giving weight to the negative old man from my recent dream that wanted the women to be made up, unable to see or appreciate their natural beauty. I must remember primary processes, to get beneath all the shoulds to where something fresh and original lives.
Poetry is the one thing I write that I could do forever and not worry about publishing it. I have a very different relationship with poetry than I do with fiction, say, or non-fiction. The act itself is so satisfying that it doesn’t matter to me if the poem has an audience or not, though, of course, I do publish my poems, and I have a book of poetry coming out in September. But they don’t have the urgency that the other genres do to get out in the world; I don’t feel I need to prove anything in poetry.
I’m reminded of something I read in the Summer 1995 issue of Parabola:
“…an inclination embodies or mirrors an unexplored capacity in us which, if allowed to flourish, might lead us further into wholeness. But very often the capacity itself is never left alone—the joy of singing is extended into a dream of being recorded, the transformative process of writing is extended into a need to be published. Ironically, the innate ability to recognize and put things together, no matter what form it takes, is often diverted into an insatiable need to be recognized.
In this way, a passion for a particular way of being turns into a grand goal of becoming, as if life did not reside in who we are but only in the dream of what we might become. Here, in the same way that the loved one is seen as the keeper of the gift, the idealized ambition—becoming a rock star or a famous writer or a wealthy businessman—is seen as the keeper of the gift that will unleash true living” (18).
Writing for me is a necessity, a spiritual path, if you will. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum, unrelated to my life. It is my life, more fully so at times than what I do in the world—teaching, being a wife and mother, interacting with friends. Not that these activities aren’t fulfilling and terribly important. But I’m discovering just how interrelated all my various selves are. Writing is the way I come to know myself, one method for recovering and integrating the disparate parts of my psyche.
An interview I read in Border Crossings with Canadian artist Betty Goodwin expresses something similar:
“A work is a deeply personal mixture of your earlier experiences and also your life at the present in this world. But I can’t shred it and say it’s absolutely this or that. It’s based in something you don’t even realize yourself until it gives you back information. It’s like you’re pulling and pulling and trying to get something. And then there’s that magic time when it begins to pull you. If that doesn’t happen, you can’t push it any more and it dies.”
This quote captures my feelings about how my writing connects with my on-going life, that somehow its shaping me as I shape it, just as dreams do. It’s essential to have this dialogue with the work and my life.