“I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all.” ~Richard Wright
There is an eerie feeling that follows reading about our favorite authors and the hardships they endured while writing our beloved favorites. It’s a piercing of that veil between our secret hope and the violent realization that all we have created cannot save us from the darkness and the pain of being such fragile, finite, ephemeral creatures.
It’s in times of trouble and hardship that our writing returns to us. It’s no longer just a passion, or a thing to be spoken of enthusiastically, but to be done in quiet and in the solitude of our own hearts, because nothing is what it once was. Public reception means nothing. Critics, editorial quirks and publishing woes are struck like weeds from the garden—uprooted and tossed aside. They have been seen for what they really are. Details. Nothing more and nothing less.
I spoke of writing evergreen once, in this post. In a way, this relates, though it’s a far deeper kind of purity that I’ve now come to know in my own writing process. It isn’t merely writing for the self—it’s writing with no concept of self. When my fingers touch the keyboard, nothing else in that moment exists beyond the story. It’s a sad kind of desperation really. A longing to find some solid ground to plant my feet on. And, amazingly, the world goes on around me like nothing has changed. And I suppose, for everyone else, it hasn’t. But, for me, nothing will ever be the same.
I’ve often mused through the years, ‘Is my life really a literary novel—stark and cold and brutal, full of vividly described scenes of crisp realism and tragic endings?’ In the early hours of the morning, awake in my bed and staring at the ceiling, I’ve secretly feared it was so. I’ve feared that a life spent dreaming of fantasy (and even romantic comedy) is in actuality like some sterile work of fiction where the sounds of nasal wheezing have taken center stage in chapter one because it represents the running down of the human body and the steady erosion of the human spirit over a lifetime of religious doubting and questioning.
I hear it … the dripping in the kitchen, the splash of water as it hits the cheap metal pot and chipped coffee cup in the sink. I feel the ache of joints and bones in ways that could only be described using words that no one uses in regular conversation. Words like, ineluctable and eructation.
It’s moments like this one … crickets chirping outside of my window, stars winking at me from the swath of velvety night sky … that I think perhaps it’s a bit of both. Perhaps even a little choice. Mostly perception. And as long as I’m still breathing, I’ll always believe a little in the impossible.
Certainly explains why I consider myself a holistic writer, doesn’t it?
We’ve walked the paths of sickness and health, death and dying, love and loss, with countless characters. We’ve loved with them. We’ve laughed with them. We’ve found and lost the meaning of life with them. We’ve grieved and feared and screamed and wept with them.
But there comes a time, in every author’s life, where they take our hand and hold our hearts. They breathe for us because we cannot breathe on our own. They love with us because we suddenly fear to and forget how. They laugh with us because we can no longer see the light or dream of the coming dawn. They find and lose the meaning of life with us because the life we knew no longer exists. They grieve and fear and scream and weep with us … because we created them, and they are the very best of who we are, who we have been and who we will become.
They walk through this present darkness with us, because of all paths, it’s the single one we cannot tread alone.
When there’s nothing left to grasp, when there are no more assurances left to ease our fears, when the dawn feels too far away to see, they are there. And how blessed are we, because it is in a way that no flesh and blood being ever could be. I dare say more so than any god because unlike faith, this great love, can never be lost.