Sharon and Katy have set a graceful stage this week. And the discussion has been empowering. I’ve read every comment with interest and I’m impressed by the energy and verve behind each one. Clearly writing is an art of passion for each one of you.
Many of you know, I like to dig around behind ideas and the thoughts that generate them (I bet you do too), and so the Friday wrap up of the topics of sweet spots, literary writing, and beauty will focus on some thoughts about the kind of knowledge, understanding, and chutzpah a writer might need to dive headfirst into beauty.
Katy referred to the terrifying state of ‘noble exile’, and while this sounds romantic on paper, in reality it looks a great deal like loneliness. Like your work being passed over while another writer excels. It might look like you ranting in your underwear at a computer screen because you haven’t got an agent to rant at. But lets hope it doesn’t come to that. Before you pitch the fit of the underappreciated in your under-roos, consider the benefit of this exile: the time and freedom to find out who you truly are. A truism: Writer know thyself.
The literary writer is the one who understands just enough about his or her own nature to be leery. They don’t trust easy answers because they can’t find any inside themselves. And they’ve looked. Everywhere. Beautiful writers don’t spin gold; they dance with dross until the gold shakes out. Exile gives you the time and perspective to learn the steps.
Exile gives you time to discover your true inspirations. Everyone can get behind a sure winner, that bestseller that’s just been made into a movie, that book everyone is buying. But given enough time and honesty (see above), a writer can begin to develop his or her taste. Alone with your thoughts, you can examine books that inspire you to experience beauty and why. The goal? It’s not to emulate the writers you admire; rather it is to strive to be as fully impacting as they are.
One of the comments left on Katy’s post: “I’m among you wrestling this angel.” Exile teaches you how to throw a solid right hook. Through experience, it teaches you the power of the struggle. Of why you struggle and don’t give up. Or, it teaches you that this struggle isn’t for you—that you were made for other things. Because sooner or later, the writer who strives for beauty comes to understand that the struggle never ends. And somehow makes peace with it.
Noble exile means you take the time (we’re talking years here) to learn how to ask the right questions. The ones everyone else wishes they could ask aloud. It gives you courage to stand up and say, “Excuse me, is any one as afraid as I am?”
There is courage inside that questioning fear. The courage to giggle when people talk about “branding” themselves as an author. They tinker with a catch phrase while you, the exiled one, understand what branding truly is: having a clear vision of who you are and what you care about enough to write about.
Exile is difficult. Many throw on their sun hats and run back to sweet civilization. Those who remain watch the trails of dust kicked up on the road and envy the comfort that awaits that writer. But, if they stay in exile long enough, they begin to hear the rhythmic beat, the music of beauty. Until one day it sings: Be fearless in your writing, in your vision, and when you have done all else, stand. Don’t back down. Don’t listen to the voices that come against the deep knowing you have about your vision as an artist. No market for your writing? So what. Write anyway. And let your feet begin to dance.
What about you? How's your dancing coming? Or does it look more like a wrestling match? We'd love to hear from you.