Leigh Bardugo says that “every man is a safe, a vault of secrets and longings.” But, I think we’re even more complicated than that. We are a horizonless hallway of locked doors. A procession of secret armories, storerooms, and depositories. A vast collection of oddities and curiosities, hidden truths and sacred relics, stowed behind barricaded entryways and combination locks. We listen alone in the expansive hush of a knowing-unknown.
There is a profundity in this silence that is beyond rational understanding and it is the task of the writer, the artist, the poet to attempt to express the truth of it’s mystery in media and form. Anne Lamott says that “Truth seems to want expression” and “Unacknowledged truth saps your energy”. This is why I write; to make an ouroboros. To make a circle out of incompletion. To bend something broken back in upon itself. To make something whole out of something secret.
Daniel Levine writes that “We all long to tell our secrets. We simply must wait for someone to come along and ask the right question.” I write because I’m tired of waiting. I am a mystery even unto myself. I am a tabernacle built in the mine field of things I don’t know how to say, and somewhere in the process of scraping words across the page, the ambiguities of who I am are made clear, even if sometimes it is only for a moment. I write to try to find the right question to ask myself, to reveal the covered truth of myself to myself.
For me, writing is not simply the means by which I say what I think, but rather it is the very the way in which I think. The way in which I discover what I think. The process by which I am thinking.
Mary Oliver writes that “It is supposed that a writer writes what he knows about and knows well. It is not necessarily so. A writer’s subject may just as well, if not more likely, be what the writer longs for and dreams about, in an unquenchable dream, in lush detail and harsh honesty.” I write what I want to know. I write about what I wish I had known ‘then’, about what I wish I could know ‘now’. I write to better know the world. I write to better know myself. “I…observe and take notes,” as Octavia Butler suggests, “trying to put things down in ways that are as powerful, as simple, and as direct as I feel them.” I give witness to the flickering sensations of thoughts and emotions. Noticing where and how a mind tries to find purchase, in the half-lotus posture of watching breath upon a page.
“[W]e are each a confluence of forces that exceed our own understanding”, Jenny Odell says. We are living Rorschach tests. Ink blots that breathe. We say and do things we don’t mean. Mean things we don’t do or say. And, we struggle with the meaning of it all, if there is even any meaning to be found at all. But, there are times and circumstances, instances and small windows that allow us to catch a glimpse of an answer to the enigma at the heart of who we are. “[I]t’s in the act of making things and doing our work”, Austin Kleon says, “that we figure out who we are.”
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