“Falling Into Art” (an excerpt)

“We are most nearly ourselves
when we achieve 
the seriousness
of the child at play.”

—Heraclitus

IMG_6933

Central to our ideas about spiritual and literary authenticity, I think, is our old friend struggle. Whatever is “serious” must be difficult. The poet Mary Oliver, for example, tells us in her Poetry Handbook that writing memorably is “unimaginably difficult.”

In one sense I agree with her. I have been re-writing this section of the book for weeks—adding, subtracting, revising, driving myself crazy to find the trail, to feel the electricity flowing through it.

But my “work” in revising wasn’t the Sisyphus kind, grinding and thankless. It was the “dog gnawing a bone” kind—driven, fueled by a fire inside. That’s not difficulty, that’s engagement.

Another poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, wrote that a person “should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his.”

Emerson’s words suggest that if writing well is difficult, the difficulty is of a different nature than the kind we’re habituated to.

It’s not the kind that requires heroic force, but rather subtle attention.

The difficulty consists of taking ourselves more seriously than “bards and sages”—or any institution, moral code, wife, or relative. Or as Jesus put it metaphorically, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.” The “me” here isn’t really Jesus. It’s you. Central you. Core you. Deep you. Beyond the chatter you.

Writing memorably is unimaginably difficult only because it’s unimaginably easy. For who could imagine that in order to write, you don’t even need to write? You need instead to trust something else to write—the you that isn’t you.

Musicians don’t look for a ridge; they look for a groove.

Art is not a mountain you climb but a hole you fall into.

 

—An excerpt from
Making Belief: Speaking for a Natural, Intelligent, Outlandish Faith
available here

 

 

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About nosuchthingasastraightline

I grew up in tiny Lyme, New Hampshire, where I drew, roamed the surrounding woods, and first entertained the idea of God while listening to my mom's Beatles records. I studied biology at Harvard University where I wrote for The Harvard Lampoon and also began writing poetry. I have since made a living variously as a comedy screenwriter, teacher, and private tutor in math, science and writing. I’ve released three CDs of original music as the singer-songwriter and guitar player for Crooked Roads (listen to latest tracks here: https://soundcloud.com/crooked-roads). My poetry writing has been inspired by Rumi, Billy Collins, William Carlos Williams, e.e. cummings, Antonio Machado, Federico Garcia Lorca, and others. My two books of poetry, "The Morning I Married the Sky," and “Free this Morning” are both available on Amazon.
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