"If writers possess a common temperament, it's that they tend to be shy egomaniacs; publicity is the spotlight they suffer for the recognition they crave." Gail Caldwell, from her book "Let's Take The Long Way Around"

"To look life in the face, always to look life in the face and to know it for what it is. At last to know it, to love it for what it is, and then, to put it away. . .always the years. Always the love. Always the hours." From the movie "The Hours", based on the book of the same name by Michael Cunningham

"Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly." Baz Luhrman, "Everybody's Free (to wear sunscreen)"

"A writer can do nothing for men more necessary, satisfying, than just simply to reveal to them the infinite possibility of their own souls." Walt Whitman

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant or talented?’ Actually, who are you not to be?” Marianne Williamson

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Justify Nothing

It was thirteen years ago when a writer, a poet, entered my life and changed it in some way I did not realize until now.

At the time, I was lost.  I was deep inside myself, determined, I thought, to change my life's course since change had already been forced upon me.  I was going to make the best of it and take advantage of "starting over."  I was going to pursue, finally, the dream of writing, of becoming a writer, meaning that I would produce work worth sharing with the world.

I've always been shy about sharing my work.  Strange, I know, since I am writing a blog.  I have always been hesitant to call myself a "writer".  "Writers" were published authors in my mind.  Since I had nothing that I truly considered remarkable, since I hadn't pursued that intimidating Creative Writing major in college, I didn't think I had a right to be called a "writer."  Writing, although part of my soul, was something I listed on applications and questionnaires as a hobby.  I was so afraid, perfectionist that I am, of failing.

I thought, when I met this poet, that I was headed in the right direction of becoming a "writer", yet as I look back, I see I was nothing more than the love-struck girl I'd always been, even at 30 years old.  Romance first (love me, please, someone love me), everything else later.  For him, it was the opposite.  Younger than me, he was wise beyond my years.

It was a temporary friendship, and upon his leaving, he gifted me with a lovely worn leather Modern Library edition of Walt Whitman's poems.  He left an inscription, and yet I was too disappointed in his leaving to appreciate it - to understand it - for what it was.

Recently I happened upon it while sorting through my library for potential garage sale items.  I held it carefully, reverently, and re-read his thoughtfully chosen inscription:

"From 'Poets To Come'
'Poets to come!  orators, singers, musicians to come!
Not to-day is to justify me and answer what I am for
. . .Arouse! for you must justify me.
. . .I am a man who, sauntering along without fully stopping, turns a casual look upon you and turns and averts his face,
Leaving it to you to prove and define it, 
Expecting the main things from you.'"

I get it.  All this time.  The main things must come from me.  I must choose my future, choose my life and justify nothing as he said in his post-script.

I've been reading a lot lately.  I became somewhat obsessed with Fitzgerald when I read "Z:  A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald" by Therese Anne Fowler and then had to follow it up with a re-reading of "The Great Gatsby."  (Since I haven't read it in 30 years, I wanted to be prepared for the movie.)  I suddenly wanted to go back to school and become a specialist on Jazz Age writers.  I read "The Paris Wife" by Paula McLain which is about Hadley, Hemingway's first wife.  I fell in love with Hemingway, in spite of the sad way his marriage ended.  So I then read "A Moveable Feast."  I don't think I'm done yet - I've downloaded "The Sun Also Rises" on my NOOK.  I was never required in school to read anything of Hemingway, other than "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place", and I am surprised.  I am inspired because of the way he attacked his writing and attended to it with such discipline.  I can only aspire to do the same.  He wrote this:

"All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you:  the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was.  If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer."

Oh, and this too:

"All you have to do is write one true sentence.  Write the truest sentence that you know."

I will do my best.

I'm Not Done

Wow, and here I thought I was done.  I don't remember what it was that inspired me to stop writing the blog.  It seems that such a big and relevant decision should be accompanied by some memory of what made me stop.  Maybe I decided it was time to stop rehashing the past and move forward.  For a long time, I had this idea that before I could write anything substantial I had to get out of the way this business of telling my life story.  Apparently there was a lot of garbage mucking up my creativity.

Maybe I'm not done.  Telling the life story, that is.  But maybe it is time to tell it in a different way.  I thought of going backwards in time, structuring my story that way, but what I have decided is this:  it is simply time to write about whatever it is that comes to mind.  Hopefully you will be interested in what I have to say; if not, this is a purely self-indulgent project (but isn't that what all writers start out with?).  I just know this:  I have things to say.

I have things to say.