There are words inside my head; I can feel them rattling around in there. They are trying to get in order and leak out of my brain through my fingertips to the keyboard. They want to splash across the page. Sometimes, if I stare at the blank page long enough, words just seem to materialize, and all I have to do is trace their outline with my pen. Like Vladimir Nebakov said once “the pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.” It’s true, sometimes it’s like that. But sometimes, the blank page just stares back at me. Like right now. My cursor is blinking at me, screaming for me to start to type, to DO something. In these instances I follow William Wordsworth’s advice: “fill your paper with the breathings of your heart,” and begin…
I remember the first time I decided, firmly decided, that I wanted to write. I soaked up e.e cummings’ advice like a sponge. I wanted to do things with language that were new, exciting, and fresh. I still, on his authority, invent words that have never before seen the light of day, and likely never will. I read Natalie Goldburg, who explained the necessity of practicing your craft, of making it a daily ritual. She waxed poetic for a whole book about getting in touch with words, she explained that writing, like any activity you wish to do well, was something you must do often, whether you felt like it or not, that eventually it would pay off and become easier. With this in mind, I tried so very hard to write every day. I was desperately hoping that one day my pen would glide like hers did. It didn’t. My first assumption was that I might be doing something wrong, that I would never be writer. I was very angry. I didn’t understand what was going on. For the first time I was uncomfortable in my own skin. I dropped writing like an abusive boyfriend. I railed against Natalie, I hated her, hated her process, hated her ideas. I was convinced that there were other ways I could express myself, that writing wasn’t for me, that I had tried and failed so it was time to move along. I went back to a medium I was comfortable with. That I had grown with.
I have always been more comfortable with the term artist. I have worked in many different media and done many bizarre things in pursuit of creative expression. Every now and again, I roll in paint, and then roll on the canvas. I smear paint with my fingers, I like to touch it and be a part of it. I don’t think when I paint. I don’t worry about what lines go where, what colours go with what. I just go. I trust my heart and my instincts to make the right choices. I sink into the darkness of myself and feel connected with my own mind. It’s not rational, it just is. I smear and slash at the canvas, I make love to it, and I weep over it. All the emotions in the human spectrum ooze out of me. It is a way of connecting with myself.
It is my belief that no one chooses to be a writer. The words choose them. The inspiration chooses them. It strikes like wildfire and moves people to create beyond themselves. What led me to writing? I suppose I have always known. But, being stubborn, I attempted to ignore the burning corners of my mind, until one day, I was consumed. At my easel, words began to peek at me through the mist of a painted landscape, or in the shadow of an areola on a ****. Following my intuition, I traced those words, melded poet with paint. I became… more.
I finally understood what Natalie Goldberg had been saying all along. It wasn’t about practice, it wasn’t about writing until your hand cramped. It was a process. It was about getting to know yourself, about finding your voice and being unafraid to use it. For her, these lessons came by writing every day, for me they came by making out with canvas and pigment on a regular basis. So what is my process? How do I write? Well those in and of themselves are perhaps some of the most loaded of loaded questions that I have ever really had to ponder. It begins with the impulse to write. I don’t mean the act of sitting at a computer and typing, or picking up a pen and writing, rather with the concept of it; the moment I put myself on a path that I had previously abandoned. For me, writing has become what painting and drawing have always been, but somehow more; it is an obsession, a way of explicating the abstractions that define the human experience. Beyond connecting with myself, it is my way of connecting with the world around me. The act of writing, of feeling moved to create something, is immense. It is important. It has become a natural function of my own being; a secret knowledge that I have stored within myself that moves me to do things in ways that no one else can. It is a journey, one that encompasses not only personal growth, but also one that fosters a community of culture and expression.
My art, my craft, and my writing are my own. I do it for me, and yet I do it for others as well; to be able to share with the world the texture of my own mind. This is a tricky thing. It requires patience, bravery, and honesty. But most of all it requires a journey. I seek not to establish my limits, but to push past them. What is my process? How do I write? Sometimes the most complex of questions have the simplest and most evocative of answers: Just put one word after another, and never forget to breathe.