09 March 2010

Work

From Walking on Water:
I believe that each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius or something very small, comes to the artist and says, "Here I am. Enflesh me. Give birth to me." And the artist either says, "My soul doth magnify the Lord," and willingly becomes the bearer of the work, or refuses.
-Madeleine L'Engle

You must once and for all give up being worried about successes and failures, Don’t let that concern you. It’s your duty to go on working steadily day by day, quite quietly, to be prepared for mistakes, which are inevitable, and for failures.
-Anton Chekov
When I was a kid I wanted to be a cartoonist for Disney. I thought that they drew all their animated features onsite at Disney World, and that I would have to move to Florida to offer my talents in a castle in the Magic Kingdom. I drew a lot of pictures, some from my own imagination and others I copied (freehand, mind you) from the VHS cases of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. Often I would write stories to accompany my drawings, but mostly I would be found with art supplies in hand.

I was dedicated.

When I encountered the inevitable whirlwind of female adolescence, I traded my art supplies for pens and notebooks and wrote very bad poems every night before bed. I immersed myself in poetry, reading and reading and writing. My ritual was only skipped if I happened to be out gallivanting with friends, but the next available night, I was curled up in bed scribbling in my notebooks.

I was dedicated.

In college I didn't write much. But I went on to get my MA in creative writing, mostly because I didn't know what else to do when I finished my undergrad. I didn't throw myself headlong into my writing. I struggled to have one poem completed by Thursday night's workshop. Surrounded by other creative types and my looming thesis of fifty or so poems kept my juices flowing just enough. When I was done, I was done. I didn't write anymore.

Since I read Walking on Water, I've revisited L'Engle's ideas frequently: Work. Listen. Pray. Work. Keep at it. Don't stop. And though the work of mothering Lily is important, I've been feeling more and more that I need to write, not for any other purpose than to get words on the page and free up my mind from the clutter that's rattling around in there. Journaling is good, and maybe that's all I do. I don't need a higher purpose and I don't (necessarily) need an audience -- I just gotta get something down. Every day. I have to follow this wherever it is taking me.

1 comment:

katieleigh said...

I love, love, love Walking on Water, and I love this post. Thanks for the reminder.

I found you through Fifty Two Fifty Two and clicked over here through your review. I enjoy your thoughtful postings.