Saturday, November 12, 2011

In the stillest hour of your night

You may have noted my existential crisis of late which has stemmed from the fact that for the last 20 years or so I have built my life, more or less, around being a writer. I’ve turned down professional opportunities out of my stubborn belief that I needed to be devoting a significant part of my time and energy to writing.

Sure, the last few years have added the all-consuming role of motherhood, thus making my goals a little less clear – but I still imagined that I could juggle writing and mothering, while hanging on to enough paid work to contribute to household and childcare expenses.

Well, recently a bucket of ice cold water was dumped on my dreams. “If you want to be a writer, buy lottery tickets,” I was told. “Once you win, then you can write. Till then, you have to earn your living.”

“We’ve already had a J.K. Rowling for our generation, and there isn’t likely to be another.”

“Unless you plan to write teenage vampire drama, you’ll never be able to make a living as a writer.”

Grow up. Get a real job. Start pulling your weight.

“You’ll feel much better once you have a good job,” I've been told. Get something reliable that pays well. Get benefits, paid vacation time. Paid vacation? I can’t imagine.

Perhaps, the wisest, most responsible thing for me to do at this point is to heed the sound advice of my friends and mentors and leave aside the romantic ideals of writing.

And yet, I keep hearing in my head the words of Rilke written in ‘Letters to a Young Poet.’

“Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all – ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? ... if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple “I must,” then build your life according to this necessity.”

Until this point, this has been my mantra.

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