I’ve been in a different space most of this year– different than before I mean. Don’t ask before what: I don’t know. Maybe the stars pulled a fast one on me. Maybe my memories got together with my dreams and staged an intervention. Maybe something fell away I don’t need anymore and it made room for something new.
What I know is I’ve got this bug I want to be a writer, which I know nothing about being, and I came to the conclusion in the spring that the next step was to work on publishing some stories in literary journals and magazines. Nobody told me to do this, but it just seemed obvious suddenly. I’m glad to have committed to this because ever since– besides finding myself on the aspiring creative person’s roller coaster of mania, denial, reflection, madness, depression, and ecstasy, all of which cycle through in about a ten minute time span– I’ve been focused much more clearly on the task at hand. In truth it has kind of taken me over day-by-day. One could equally say I’ve given myself to it.
This of course can be a source of trepidation. There’s a risk in giving way to something: maybe it won’t pan out. But the truth is I think we each have a pretty good innate sense of what we ought to be giving ourselves to. Announcing a campaign to become an Olympic swimmer isn’t even remotely on my radar. Working more deliberately at writing feels natural. Asides from chewing me up and spitting me out, this commitment has brought into being some interesting discoveries. That’s the beautiful return of a commitment.
For starters, I think less. This may not strike you as a good thing, but [I think] it is. One of the beautiful aspects of creative work is that it’s open-ended, foreign, and ambiguous. You have to actually go out there into it and explore it and touch it and let it show you what it is, so regardless of how I may view myself as a person– in light of one philosophy or another, in light of past choices and what I think I’ve figured out about this life– it doesn’t really matter. Resume counts for nothing here. There’s only the desire and the way it peels you open.
I’ve also noticed that this peeling open doesn’t feel very spiritual, in the sense that it’s more of an immersion into the experience of it. I’m not seeking to understand something, is what I think I mean. At times it feels like a very grasping and desperate thing– at others a delicious and sublime one. But these are just states of mind passing through it. When I’m writing I don’t feel any of those conditions. They come later when I’m confronted with how very little I know about the outer process of becoming a writer– that you have to research the various journals and what they publish, that there is a way to handle oneself in this arena, that it takes a great deal of time to identify potential outlets for your work, and that you must keep track of what you’ve submitted to who, and adhere to differing preferences and rules at every turn. At first it was daunting but I’ve slowly settled into it– I’m very good with spreadsheets!– and it has been a wonderful opportunity to experience that awkwardness that comes with encountering an altogether new experience, and to do so without expectation or judgment.
Not that I’ve pulled it off exactly, but I’ve understood that if I am to enjoy this, then certainly those must go by the wayside. It has given me the chance to experience more directly the idea that the process of creative becoming is an eternal dance with the new, and that what remains “after” a spiritual path is this unnameable engagement with things. With yourself. In my moments of encountering it without fear of failure, which come and go, it suggests to me how we can be both complete as beings, and absolutely lost in the unknown at the same time. That feels right to me. Sometimes we hope our spiritual path will allow us to “achieve” some vantage point from which we can rest indefinitely, but engagement with the power and the presence and the life within us compels an ongoing exploration. Of course we must rest. But our spiritual paths are not mansions we construct off in the mountains to which we retire. They must be relevant to unfolding the love we carry within us.
A downside is that work submitted for publication can’t have been previously shown, so I can’t publish here in this space what I’ve been working on. I hope one day to be able to link to a publication or two, but in the meanwhile the worlds must be somewhat distinct. It has been hard to spend time writing and to also find time to produce meaningful posts of the sort I have in the past, but I think this too will ebb and flow.
I’m happy to share that I’ve had an inkling of validation– a nudge along the way if you will– as I found out that one story I submitted earlier this year to a competition was selected as a finalist. Somehow that has made all the difference. That and the lovely encouragement of friends, for which I am profoundly grateful, and which has provided astonishing nourishment. It is quite amazing how little we require to sustain us, when who we are is not really at stake. Only the need to give it away.