Writing, I have recently come to realize, requires a lot of solitude and privacy, as well as an expanse of time in which no other work can really be done, as it impinges on the creative spirit and process. Real work is absolutely counterproductive to the creative writing process and experience. The muses will not be commanded to fire the mind when you want them to, nor do they appreciate the fact that you have to earn a living, and so must put up a barrier against them in order to do the work that will pay the bills and keep you from starving and becoming homeless. Writing must be done in one’s free time, in the space in which nothing else is pressing or must be done; the only duty in one’s free moments is to the muses, to the spirit that moves the pen across the page, or your fingers across the keyboard. The creative voice, I have come to understand, will have its say; you will hear it speak, and write its words down, or there will be the hell of living for weeks or even months at a time in the agony of being unable to write because Time is not on your side, or even worse, for not responding when first called, you will be punished by the gods with an interminable period of writer’s block that will damage your psyche more than you can possibly imagine. The worst part of it all is that you will question whether you will ever be able to write again. Like passion, the creative writing process will not be commanded or questioned. You will be the sacrifice for that which must be voiced through you in order for the world to be renewed and continued in the eternal process of creation.
Writing demands solitude and privacy. This is an unfortunate truth, a necessary evil. This truth has led me to the belief that life in the city is antithetical to the creative process. I am not saying the city isn’t good or necessary for inspiring the mind and filling the soul with reservoirs from which the creative act will draw at a later time, but that it seems to me to deprive writers such as myself with the quiet and privacy necessary to writing. The electric current of noise, movement, and anonymity that is the character of the city may spark and set fire to the mind and the soul of the writer, but I believe there has to be a space (both literal and figurative) that is not crowded with people and noise that can serve as the place in which the mind and spirit can become unblocked and the flow of life experienced in the city set free on the page. This space can be found in nature; in a place cut off from the world, where the writer’s only companion is Nature herself, providing the writer with the solitude necessary to open up the fault lines in the mind and soul so that the writer can breathe and liberate his experience, his vision, transforming and transfiguring it into the literary work of art it becomes.
The privacy required of the writing process also often leads to another unfortunate sacrifice on the writer’s part—the lack of an intimate relationship with a significant other, or at least a marked strain on the relationship if the writer has a partner, and often even the sacrifice of not having children. Like any true artist, writers must sacrifice a number of things to be devoted to their craft and to create art. I would love to have a relationship with someone, but that someone must learn to accept, immediately, that I need my space. I need my space in which to breathe, to live, and to give myself over to my writing. I have been writing for twenty-one years now, and my most mature, powerful, and honest work has been done in the last dozen years, and everything I write represents my voice, is my voice, for I do not speak my most important thoughts, emotions, or ideas. As someone once told me after reading some of my poetry, “you need to write in order to live,” and that is the simple fact and truth of the matter. My writing is my identity, it is my space; it is who I am and the only place in which I truly live, breathe, and come back to myself, finding myself again and again in a periodic but necessary moment of regeneration and renewal. I cannot allow a potential lover or significant other to take that away from me. If I were to ever find someone and settle down with him, these would be the first terms on which our relationship would exist. As for children, I could never give my life up for them, having to raise them would be what parenthood should be defined as in the dictionary: self-sacrifice; and my writing is my self, and this is a self, the only thing I have in this life that is me, and this self is something I cannot sacrifice. In writing I know myself, and to lose that would be to lose myself, and that would be a death-in-life I cannot surrender to. To sacrifice the perceived legitimate social norms of family and intimacy with another person is the only path that will enable me to continue writing, to continue writing myself, and forging the only identity and voice I know.
Originally published in The Cud, September 2013.