(What is this that frees me so in storms?
What do my shouts amid lightnings and raging winds mean?)
O to drink the mystic deliria deeper than any other man!
O savage and tender achings! (I bequeath them to you my children,
I tell them to you, for reasons, O bridegroom and bride.)
From reading the above poem, I would have to believe that Walt Whitman would have agreed with the idea that we write from the gut and not from the head.
So might Salman Rushdie, who wrote: “...the act of creation is not entirely a rational and conscious one.”
And what is my opinion? I think that emotions are at least as important as logic and knowledge. Maybe more so. That feelings are to our creativity, as firewood is to our wood stove.
And sometimes that can cause a problem or two. Because writers flirt, play, manipulate, tease and struggle with emotional material. Like a lion tamer, who tries to get the lion to do this and that while said lion growls, hisses, roars and even charges at the tamer. Now most of the time the charges aren’t carried to their final possibilities and the lion backs off. But sometimes the lion doesn’t drop his eyes and back off. Isn’t obedient. His attack is for real. Then you have trouble.
If the lion gets you then you’re emotionally bleeding. A lot or a little bit, and the lion may be out of his cage. Outside your writing office. He’s free to roam wherever he darn well pleases while you try to wrangle him back into his cage. And doesn’t he just love to cuff you around when you’re trying to sleep? Like a cat toying with a mouse.
Chaos is like having a truck dump a pile of building supplies onto your front lawn leaving you to figure out which part goes where. And winter is coming. And you’re low on money.
I’ve also both heard about and experienced the problems that arise when writers try to write about emotional experiences they are undergoing in the present. For example, if you’re going through a divorce, it’s difficult to use those experiences and the emotions in your writing until the sensations particular to that situation, have had time to settle and work themselves out.
Or, using the wood metaphor, until the wood has had time to dry. When it’s at its best to get your wood fire turning your stove pipes red. Otherwise, the wood is too green. So can your present emotional experiences be too green. It takes time.
Emotional chaos can come to anyone from a whole variety of experiences. A new job, the death of a loved one, a lost relationship, a new relationship, a loss of faith, a new faith, or from those places that have long been locked away. The hinges coated with rust and the door heavy with moss and age.
However, when a writer gets it sorted out and can begin to write about it, then the writing will be the real thing. The blood will be on the page and what reader can resist reading stories written in blood?
And writers have an advantage. They’re used to dealing with creative chaos. They can write it into something meaningful to themselves and to others. Get the mangy old lion cornered.
When creative or personal chaos strikes me, I look at the sky, the mountains, the trees and the ocean or lake and I see how immense this universe is. It’s easy when you live in Cape Breton to see this immensity of the universe. Then, if I’m lucky, I can allow myself to let go and be gracious about the chaos that is supply teaching for my usual rascally rabbit muse. And I write.
As they say, the tree that bends, lives to grow another day, or something like that.
According to Grinder, (whom I am going to have to wake up today, before the rain turns the snow into mush, and then the cold turns the mush into )*(&^&^%^$% ice), “The snow blower whose shear pin breaks is a snow blower who will live to blow snow for another day.” I couldn’t have put it any better myself.
John O’Donohue, Irish mystic and Connemara poet, wrote:
“The light of modern consciousness is not gentle or reverent; it lacks graciousness in the presence of mystery--when the spiritual search is too intense and hungry, the soul stays hidden. The soul was never meant to be seen completely.”
Tolstoy wrote in his book, Anna Karenina: “He was nine years old, he was a child; but he knew his own soul, it was dear to him, he protected it as the eyelid protects the eye, and did not let anyone into his soul without the key of love. His educators complained that he did not want to learn, yet his soul was overflowing with a thirst for knowledge.”
So hang in and believe that some day it will be a bloody wonderful story.
Speaking of chaos, have you been listening to some of our skilled politicians lately? The ones who seldom spin a lie, but rarely tell the truth? Now there’s a Zen koan for you.