I was listening to this interview with Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman a few weeks ago, and I’m still thinking about it. Palmer talks about how she found “salvation in art…when other things were unsafe and dangerous”. She says that “books and music” helped her so much that she “wanted to be able to do that, so that [she] could give back what [she] had been given.” She says that because someone was able to do that for her then, if she could, she should try to do that for someone else.
My own creative motivations closely parallel Palmer’s. I have been and continue to be the recipient of comfort and consolation from a long lineage of writers, artists, poets, musicians, makers, and creators. I’ve spent most of my life alone, and books have become my best friends, my closest companions, my community of sacred fellowship. They’ve continued to provide me with something that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else. Each of these writers, artists, and thinkers have come to me when I needed them the most; the ministering angels of our broken nature; the attendant spirits of my obliterated place.
They have made me feel safe and seen, heard and less alone, they extend grace to me in the refined movements of their gentle goodwill and the simple elegance of their steadfast presence. They were a part of a wider, broader, conversation, and they were inviting me to participate in it. They were speaking, I was listening, and I started writing because they welcomed my reply.
They created, for me, what Anne Lamott might call “ a debt of honor“; a debt I intend to honor , a debt I am honored to honor.
I write to pay my debts. I write to pay it forward. I say the things that I am desperately hungry hear. I tell the truths that I direly need to be told, all in the hopes that maybe someone else needs them as distressingly as I do.
We are learning to “be”, because “being” is hard, and “being-alone” is that much harder. When we are scared, small, and lonely, when we are lying desperate in the dark, this is not only when we most need the work of writers, poets, and artists, but this is also when we most need to do the work of artists, writers, and poets, and provide a salve that soothes the burn of being alive…
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