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At the heart of it all At the heart of it all
by Abigail George
2010-12-13 08:56:26
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Writing is a fragile gift. You are either born to it, taught to do it, led kicking and screaming to it, become members of creative writing groups and visit writing workshops. It is not something to be tampered with. It is a holy, wholesome, awesome and splendid thing. It is an obsession that comes with a great responsibility, culture and a manifesto of sorts; a pool of virgin creations. The climate in which you write is just as important. You have a dream and then you have a miracle taking shape, taking place in front of you.

It begins with a few thoughts and reflections like a silent, flowing river married to nature, to fire, to the wisdom of mystics throughout the ages, to wasted tenderness, love, generosity, to the cruel removal of the innocence from the head space of a child, hours spent in solitude and introspection, in turbulent and despairing weather that begins with echoes rising and stirring with thunder and streaks of lightning across the sky; rain beckoning.

Words have no humming boundaries. The blasted, crinkled, filled to the brim stuffed world is their stage. They can float like air; shuffle, weep like rain, hiss, fizz, dissipate at will. This is how you study them – in their country and on their own terms with their dark, beady eyes like slits. They wear wigs and costumes (similes and metaphors to you and to me). The writer fills in the blank spaces, the details where God is supposed to be. He is the contractor. You’re just there along for the ride. Here at my desk everything works according to a different timeline.

I try not to question it too much and the compass that navigates me throughout the experience, the journey, the destinations that it takes me to, the push, the pull, the flow of it all.  Visions, memories, destinies, spirituality, the Milky Way, the moon; these are all words that chanting them brings you to dig into your past for material to write about. They deepen your life experience exquisitely as they fall magically into place from your psyche to your journal, screen or once numbing page and you feel lighter and lighter.

You have to be comfortable enough in your own skin to take it head on, high, low, recovering from alcoholism (if you are a writer and an alcoholic), depression (if you are a writer and suffer from depression), a bout of mental illness, rage, a drab sadness saturating your brain or any of your immediate family being on your case again. When their small deaths come, the small deaths of the words on the page it comes in waves and you have to be ready for this. It is now or never again.

Writing is not a safe career. Is there anything as a safe career? We work with characters whose lives are bold and infinite on the page. Writers have to forget regrets and their insecurities and remember that there is so much more to live for; to write for. They have to write for the mystery of the future, for the wings of tomorrow and fill pages with boisterous language, black letters that whisper, chant and enchant and that make the reader escape into. It is not time that is turning the pages but history in the making like tender wreckage. Cargo spilled out onto the sand; washed over by tides, watched over by moonlight. Only then can you finally see the sum of what you are enduring, what you are surviving, the gift you are giving to yourself and to others; your audience, your readers and sometimes even the people you are the closest to like your parents and your siblings.

Sometimes words spirits or their spirited natures can be crushed on the page. The open road of writing is long and hard filled with wild desires and wishful thinking.

Tell your story truthfully. Stay calm. Play soothing, meditative music to get you in the mood. Truth is painful, innocent and playful, complicated and brings up issues from the past, from childhood. Truth is beautiful. It is fuelled by hunger and grounding signs. It comes with its own hurts, disguises, negatives and pretences, condensed leftovers.

When a writer is lost for words then he is gripped in an age wrapped in bubble wrap. It’s comforting in a routine way to burst those bubbles with glee but then what are you left with in the end – barren holes and a hole in the head where the euphoria of magical thinking should be ripening with congenial ease. This is when a writer must work harder than ever to grip those words inside his psyche, all his isms, what he would call ‘intellectual’ and spirit them on the pathway of his keyboard. Do not ignore shopping lists of words that just attach themselves consciously to you. There is a story somewhere in there. A story you have to figure out for yourself.

Dreamy and dewy; writing is an exercise in speed and seed. These words form packs like teenage boys sitting on street corners wolf whistling when a lovely girl walks by who pretends to be oblivious to their attention.

The bleached dead white bones of the page are jazzed up a little in black and plain neutrals and given a platform. There’s an unrelenting heartbeat, a ruthless pulse and an interwoven web. It begins with slowly peeling back the layers of pain that you experienced by anyone as a small child; those inescapable hurts that your parents caused you growing up, when you were bullied or teased mercilessly by them in some way or other or picked on by one or more of your siblings because you were ‘weird’ or funny looking or walked like a duck.

Sometimes you may feel just a bit out of your depth like what am I doing here and this is really not my true calling but those thoughts will pass the more you keep perfecting your craft and being sensitive to the people and the environment you are in. Practice makes perfect. So you will shape poems, haiku, short stories, novellas, novels, non-fiction and at the end you will marvel at what you have done and accomplished so brilliantly and if you’re a good Christian you will pray, meditate on what you have written and sense the divine intervention that intervened and that it wasn’t all just your own ego at work. If you’re a bad Christian or do not have faith or any kind of belief system it will all go to your head and you will think you have achieved the unthinkable and wonder will you ever strike it lucky twice, three or four times in a row and if you do you will think it just a coincidence. Creative writing teaches the teacher as well as the learner. There are natural rhythms at work here. There is grammar, spelling and continuity, holding the reader’s interest and nudging them in the right direction of believing in your characters.

Writers can be serene but most of all we want to be understood. We want to channel our own goals and dreams into the head spaces of millions for that is our dream (at least for some of us). It is our dream for our name to be recognised. We want to be sincere and authentic, batter our reader with the full power and force of our knowledge and ego.

These angelic words that I write down as fast as I can or put down in a journal or tap-tap-tap on a keyboard are a symbol of my steadfast Christian faith, eternal, journeying through destinies and stones of immortality. I see them through to the end like pieces of parenthood, philosophy, structured tribal gatherings even when I am lost. I treat them like children that have just come into the world. I caress their foreheads and hold their poised tiny shell-like hands in mine. These letters of the alphabet are love letters shooting straight from the head; filtered through by the heart.

I have an addiction to words like kids have to sweet and sour worms. Words remind me of war zones in hot climates. They make their own pilgrimage on my screen like any other saint for that matter. Each one of them a Magus in their own right. They have fought the good fight; won battles, endured at the heart of it all. Writers have a lifetime of second chances. They can have cool heads, cool demeanours and up close they can be as cool as icebergs.

Boned, words anchor me to the ground. All of writing is an experiment in the making. It is an arduous waiting game. You hope for silence. You wish for it but the noise around you is strangely comforting and makes you feel at home. You feel so secure, less trapped, no longer trembling. You finally feel a trust and a loyalty that was not there before as they come into being; as they become a knitted together creation, comfortable and mature, nourished innately, inwardly by your intellectual aspirations.

When they seem to satisfy me to no end; make me feel heavenly and proud and when the words look elegant enough on the page, then I decide finally it’s enough; more than enough and I write ‘the end’.

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