This vanity project, my blog.
I write here because I love words, I love to read, I love to write and this is a way for me to find my voice.
The act of writing becomes an act of staring into my soul.
In a truly narcissistic way, I stare into the screen lovingly, writing the words, reading over them again, polishing, as if they are a mirror. Not really knowing if anyone else will ever read them but not really worrying about that, just being curious about the act of writing itself. Of wanting to channel it, to feel the pulse of inspiration rushing through from somewhere up near the brain, loving the physical sensation of the tapping of the fingertips, otherwise forgetting that I have a body, and then loving the complex arrangement of the symbols on the screen, loving that they somehow make sense.
The connection of the soul to the written word arose for me when I re-read The Hours by Michael Cunningham.
I wanted to celebrate how perfectly he captures this moment when he describes Virginia Woolf as she sets out to write:
She sips her coffee, sets it down, stretches her arms. This is one of the most singular experiences, waking on what feels like a good say, preparing to work but not yet actually embarked. At this moment there are infinite possibilities, whole hours ahead. Her mind hums. This morning she may penetrate the obfuscation, the clogged pipes, to reach the gold. She can feel it inside her, an all but indescribable second self, or rather a parallel, purer self. If she were religious, she would call it the soul. It is more than the sum of her intellect and her emotions, more than the sum of her experiences, though it runs like veins of brilliant metal through all three. It is an inner faculty that recognizes the animating mysteries of the world because it is made of the same substance, and when she is very fortunate she is able to write directly through that faculty. Writing in that state is the most profound satisfaction she knows, but her access to it comes and goes without warning. She may pick up her pen and follow it with her hand as it moves across the paper; she may pick up her pen and find that’s she’s merely herself, a woman in a housecoat holding a pen, afraid and uncertain, only mildly competent, with no idea about where to begin or what to write.
She picks up her pen.
What a brave man, Michael Cunningham is, to choose Virginia Woolf as a character. Thank you, Michael, for doing so because I now know her so differently through your perspective. And for letting me know, through your characterization, that you understand it too: that the moment of flow is the moment to write.
This article about George Orwell on The Marginalian summarises the essay ‘Why I write’ and so much of his reasoning resonates with me. Orwell gives the following four reasons for why he writes:
1) “Sheer egoism – Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc.”
I have to agree with what Orwell is saying here. There’s something in the striving for saying something that the world deems worthwhile that the ego finds tantalizing.
2) “Aesthetic enthusiasm – perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement.”
For those of us who think visually, there is nothing nicer than the neatness of words on the page, the shaping of text through design, and the crafting of real books on real paper.
3) “Historical impulse – Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.”
For me, this means immortalizing the moment, particularly telling others – future others – what it’s like to be here now.
4) “Political purpose – Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.”
Ah, the unquenchable desire to change the world.
Earlier in the year, I had a lovely chat with Naomi Riddle of the arts website Running Dog and, during that conversation we talked about why we write. Naomi said:
“Speaking from my own experience, the process of writing helps me understand how I think about a topic or an idea, or how I understand the world around me.”
This sentence echoes the timeless words of Gustave Flaubert, who said:
“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.”
And so we write to make sense of the world and of what we think. And we share it to find out if those thoughts resonate with anyone else. Does that validate us? Yes! Is it egotistical? Probably. Should we stop writing because it might just be narcissism in disguise? I don’t think so. I think the art of creating is too valuable to put any limits on it.
If I’m lucky, the practice of writing will only extend my understanding of the world around me. There’s a strong chance that, just by doing this, I’ll grow out of my narcissistic tendencies. But I can’t promise anything!
For those of you who are reading, thank you so much for inviting me into your day, your mind, your life, even if just for a few minutes. Thanks for following along as I explore what I think and what I believe. May we enjoy that small connection and carry it forward, continuing on this journey of creativity.