A Note to Fellow Artists on the Path
A Note to Fellow Artists on the Path
I wrote this for Marian Andrew's podcast as a "prep" article before our recording session. We never ended up taping as the show went on hiatus for the summer but this article has stood as one of the brighter spots in a spring of anxiety, frustration and indecision. I was going to add this as an appendix to my new book but the editor recommended I integrate it into the story. I still want to include this short article here on my blog for you all. Enjoy!
I feel like there is a huge connection between personal pain and the writing process. When we suffer, when we have mental health problems, it is almost like we are given information to aid us in our writing. Through the process of suffering we learn, we gain information about ourselves, other people, our personal situations. We must learn to decipher this information and transmute it into meaningful art. We often find ourselves stuck in the dark. We are in the caves, the doldrums, with no wind or hope of sailing away. You have to remember that the divine spark came from a caveman in a cave. Hindus and Buddhists found inspiration meditating in caves in the Himalayan mountains. Native Americans went on vision quests. Jesus found his rebirth in a tomb. Muhammed found his inspiration in a cave. Plato spoke about the allegory of the cave where he only saw shadows but when he came into the light he understood everything because he not only understood what he saw in the light but also in the darkness. Caves are a huge theme in human inspiration and creation. They also inspire us in religion. There is nothing barbaric or prehistoric about them.
When we suffer we find meaning, we learn, we find wisdom. When we suffer we experience something new. We open ourselves to the unknown. So without this openness we never learn anything. That is why humanity is stunted because we are only trying to build on what we already know and we are not making ourselves vulnerable. We are not trying to associate ourselves with the big ideas that can only be found in the dark. We try to shine light on things we don't know standing in the light. What we must do is light our own personal torch and travel through the caverns of the unknown. It is scary. It can be painful. We might run into something disturbing, frightening or agonizing to us. The thoughts we need to understand are not pleasant to know. Reality never is. However, we have to endure. We have to thrust ourselves into the unknown to find this new information. The Industrial Revolution is like the Dark Ages. Because we have cell phones and computers we think we know something but in reality we just have access to information. The problem is that we don't know how to think critically. We don't know how to make connections or how to make access to this information significant or meaningful. We have to suffer. We have to be frustrated, to experience ignorance and loss to find the port of entry we so desperately seek after.
Researchers study information to advance civilization. That is all well and good but the problem is that they are not plunging into the unknown. They have too many points of reference. They are not thinking of new ideas because all of their thoughts are based on something we already know. As authors and writers, this is also our problem. We are not thinking of big ideas. We are not attempting to innovate. We only seek to write a successful and lucrative book. As artists it is important to innovate. The hallmark of a successful writer is to be someone who is not compared to anyone else. This is the goal. To be an individual, to be unique, to do something no one else has done. Only then will we be successful at our craft and only then will we ever feel we truly made it. Writing is the simple part. Being different, being strange, being weird may seem awkward at first. In the end it is the ultimate goal. Even if readers don't understand you now, who knows what they will think years or decades in the future. Write from the heart. Spill your soul out because you can't be compared to anyone else. You're not telling a similar story. Make it brilliant. Make it extraordinary. Never make it boring and you will go far. You will finally become you. You will finally achieve yourself.