Must I Write?

Yesterday, I found this blog. The writing stopped me dead in my tracks and demanded to be recognized. Have you ever experienced that before? I was moved in a way like I’ve never been before. My heart quickened as the words enveloped me. I sat there quietly staring at my screen while my brain flirted with a million thoughts a minute. Who am I? What am I doing? Am I a writer? Where is my story? Why can’t I write like this? Is this normal? I mean it, is it normal to feel jealous over someone else’s words? W O R D S? They don’t belong to anyone, right?! There is a part of me that wants to tell stories- pure, addictive, screaming fictional tales soaking wet with the human spirit. I’m not very good at writing that story. And then there is this me that pops up on your screen. The straightforward me. The idealistic me. The me, who likes to cook for her friends, design on a dime and solve world hunger one pancake at a time (there’s a real story there), the living, breathing me. I can write about her all day long! She is easy for me. She’s constantly interrupting me to remind me that her glass is half full. But, her…  I can’t even hear her voice until I read her words on someone else’s page, when she slaps me silly and sulks in a corner for not noticing her all this time. Ugh! How do I connect the dots from me to her?

I remembered reading an essay awhile ago by Rainer Marie Rilke (letters to young poets) about writing. It felt appropriate to read this to myself tonight. It also felt fitting to share some of the highlights, because I’m neither the first nor last to have a bout of self-doubt, and as long as I’m keeping myself honest this spell will continue to remain unbroken.

“Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. Then come close to Nature. Then, as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose…”
“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” 
“And your doubt can become a good quality if you train it. It must become knowing, it must become criticism. Ask it, whenever it wants to spoil something for you, why something is ugly, demand proofs from it, test it, and you will find it perhaps bewildered and embarrased, perhaps also protesting. But don’t give in, insist on arguments, and act in this way, attentive and persistent, every single time, and the day will come when, instead of being a destroyer, it will become one of your best workers–perhaps the most intelligent of all the ones that are building your life.”

— Rainer Maria Rilke

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