It’s Wednesday and I have been pondering about this question ‘What to write?’ and sometimes the next insidious question pops up ‘Is it even worth writing?’. Then I think things through and decide yes it is, because I do like writing especially when I have the full jurisdiction to decide on the content that I will be writing…as serious or silly they might be.
It got me thinking about the three phases of the history of women’s literature in Elaine Showalter’s book Toward a Feminist Poetics. In the third phase ‘Female: The Female phase (1920— ) is one of self-discovery. Showalter says, “women reject both imitation and protest—two forms of dependency—and turn instead to female experience as the source of an autonomous art, extending the feminist analysis of culture to the forms and techniques of literature” (New, 139)’
Yet, why is it that I question the validity of my experiences at times, and have I internalized and have trivialized myself on my own accord?
I agree that writing is one of self-discovery, regardless of one’s gender. Is it more so for the female? I think so. My heightened awareness of what I am writing, why I am writing and what I try to self-censor or think I should self-censor to be viewed as right, or at least more acceptable. Perhaps, it is just a bout of bored introspection. You see, right there.
Anyway, I came across the book Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke in my sister’s pile of books that she had set aside to read. Reading through the first letter was already very inspiring. I especially liked this excerpt
‘You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you – no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must”, then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. Then come close to Nature. Then, as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose…So rescue yourself from these general themes and write about what your everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty Describe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity and, when you express yourself, use the Things around you, the images from your dreams, and the objects that you remember. If your everyday life seems poor, don’t blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is no poverty and no poor, indifferent place. And even if you found yourself in some prison, whose walls let in none of the world’s sound – wouldn’t you still have your childhood, that jewel beyond all price, that treasure house of memories? Turn your attention to it. Try to raise up the sunken feelings of this enormous past; your personality will grow stronger, your solitude will expand and become a place where you can live in the twilight, where the noise of other people passes by, far in the distance. And if out of , this turning within, out of this immersion in your own world, poems come, then you will not think of asking anyone whether they are good or not. Nor will you try to interest magazines in these works: for you will see them as your dear natural possession, a piece of your life, a voice from it. A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity. That is the only way one can judge it.’
The need to take pride in and understand that the piece of work that you have made or the poem that you have written are pieces of your life is a humbling yet powerful revelation. To simply strip off the need of economic rewards or external validation is something that takes courage, I feel. Ironically, to make art you will need to have the guts and a small stomach.(So that you’ll be able to survive on less food and less money.)
I am reminded of my initial plan to curate what i have cooked…yet third post into this blog and I have not done so. Next post it shall be!!