Here’s the deal: I don’t work for free. I don’t work for publicity. I don’t work for exposure. I don’t work for promises and pipe dreams. The price tag for any of my work, be it writing, editing, or the occasional drawing, has a price tag attached to it. Hint: it doesn’t say “free.” I work for real, solid money even if it’s the digital sort deposited into my PayPal account. Unless I’m volunteering my time and talents, which I do, I expect to be paid with the sort of revenue that can be used to pay bills and purchase essential items like diabetes supplies and groceries.
“At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then – and only then – it is handed to you. From the corner of your eye you see motion. Something is moving through the air and headed your way. It is a parcel bound in ribbons and bows; it has two white wings. It flies directly at you; you can read your name on it. If it were a baseball, you would hit it out of the park. It is that one pitch in a thousand you see in slow motion; its wings beat slowly as a hawk’s.”
- Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
I once said I wrote to escape myself. It’s a true statement, but it’s not the full truth. I write because writing brings grace. It is in the act of writing that I am transformed.
Perhaps that’s a reason why writers avoid the blank page – it’s comfortable to stay in the known even if that known doesn’t fit well whatsoever and can be destructive to the mind and soul. It’s tempting to wallow in the muck rather than to rise above it. It’s frightening to embrace the unknown and to understand that that unknown comes unbidden yet only while doing the work.
Picasso says inspiration comes as it finds you working. You mustn’t grab onto it when it comes; it is a moment of grace, a moment of transformation. It is yours only at the point of contact. Now you must hit it out of the park. You must let it leave you. Grace and transformation and inspiration will find you again.
Perhaps Lorca’s duende is more applicable. The duende visits while the artist does the work. It is a searing hot wind that leaves the artist breathless and in wonder at the work that has come from her hands or feet or mouth. She knows she did not do this work on her own. Something changed within her as she did the work. She found something. She worked toward something and ended up working toward something else.
Then again, maybe the something is the “other,” that self that exists but can only be found by embracing and retreating into solitude and the unknown. The moment of transformation that sometimes occurs while in that place is a brief taste of what one could be, of what one will be. And, oh, the taste!
The act of writing, like other art forms, is a way of removing a veil. It’s to see clearly even if only for a brief second, minute, or hour. It’s to see the world in a new way. It’s to see oneself not necessarily newly created but as one is when suspended within grace, not the one stunted and stupefied by worries and obsessions but the free one, the one that dances with abandon even when people are looking.
Image: Rory MacLeod (CC BY 2.0)