split the world
and pour through.
– from “Water” by Eloise Klein Healy
It’s not easy, this writing thing in that writers – those people who see words as the tools of art – can’t, won’t, don’t take the easy way to meaning. Instead, they crack themselves open, pomegranates of language, and write blood.
We tears ourselves open and pour ourselves out. . . and then we go back with a scalpel and shape the bodies out of our bodies into stories and ideas that speak. It is not enough to bleed. We must also sculpt that blood back into new flesh.
Some forget this and spew forth in the platitudes and pithy sayings that turn out to be corn syrup and red food coloring – the artifice of horror in the written world.
Writers do not want to be these people. We want to carve deep into our own stories and find truth, and question, and that floating, bubble of a thing called meaning.
Right now, our culture is filled with the corn syrup and red food coloring of words – maybe it always has been. But that will not suffice for me – as writer or reader. I want the fire and the ice, the blood hot and then frozen for sculpture. I want to bleed for what I mean.
Because if I don’t, why bother? There are 25 others who will step in to write simplicity and bulleted lists in my place. If I cannot write my meaning – depth and breadth of flesh – I will stop . . . because only the blood stains.
My suggestions for how to bleed words:
1. Forget about making money. Art in our culture does not often pay. If it does pay you, then that’s wonderful. But don’t make the sole purpose of writing to be about income. If you do, then you’re in business, not in art.
2. Be as poundingly honest as you can be. This takes great courage and great strength, but it is the only way through to what is real. And when you are honest, when you put it all out there, you’ll find peace . . . if you hold back, you’ll find regret.
3. Question yourself. It is easy to become solidified in our beliefs, opinions, perspectives, but an artist will “live the questions,” to quote the beautiful Rilke. We will force ourselves to stay liquid, to bleed as we push into the shards of ideas and experiences we do not know.
4. Listen. Read. When we only speak, we begin to pontificate. Pontification is not honest; it’s by nature defensive. We must learn to be silent and hear – the words of others and the truth of our own hearts. Only then can we push into truth more deeply.
5. Take risks. Saying anything out loud is dangerous. Writing anything out loud is even more dangerous. And you will get hurt. Probably every day. But you will also get stronger and wiser and more true. Be bold. Step out.
6. Learn to stay silent. Not everything needs to be said. Not everything needs to be said right now. Wait. Craft. Shape. Revise. Then, speak. (I’m learning this lesson over and over these days.)
What about you? What helps you write the art you need to write?