Confessions: the doubts, sacrifices & blessings of being a writer


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Lately, I will look up—from the book covers I’m buried in, or computer screen that I’m plastered to—and experience a mild panic. What have I done with my life, I’ll wonder, and has the extraordinary gamble of devoting myself to literature (at the expense of all else) been worth it; has it paid off & at what cost?

Turning 46 years old (which, in turn, is four years short of 50!) I’m asking myself these questions with renewed urgency. Yet, once the anxious flutter subsides, I’m left with the same answer.

I had no choice, really, there could have been no other way. A life of letters—first as voracious reader, then as delirious writer—has been vital and meant so many things for me, it’s difficult to begin to untangle them.

On one level, reading and writing is play, serious play, and escapism, from suffering that I was not otherwise equipped to deal with. Which is to say, the literary life is a deeply enjoyable form of self-medication, pursuit of altered consciousness, self-parenting, even.

Books—by others and, eventually, my own—were there for me in ways that people were not/could not have been. They revealed me to myself, over time, mentored me, sustained and inspired me—giving me a way to be in this world, but not of it…

Strange to say, perhaps, but it was reading and writing that also taught me how to meditate in a fashion—slipping through the bars of self and time— as well as how to bow, give thanks, pray. Whether or not I realized it, from the start, books pointed me in the direction of the long, hard road to transformation, and helped me take the first steps.

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Admittedly, at times, life as a writer has seemed like a lonely vocation. Yet, in fact, the opposite is closer to the truth. Literature, my own and others, has in fact, repeatedly, rescued me from loneliness and connected me to the world. Miraculously, it has gifted me friends across space and time, raising the great dead from previous generations, as well as granting me far flung readers of my own work that I’ve connected with, virtually.

In the poignant words of Argentine writer, Jorge Luis Borges:

Despite a writer’s life being solitary, if they are lucky, they might come to discover they are at the center of a vast circle of invisible friends.

Thank you, friends (visible and invisible), for being part of my literary life, and co-partners in this remarkable adventure (so far). I hope I’ve not been too self-indulgent and that, at times, my words have mysteriously spoken your silences, the way writers have spoken mine.

If I might be permitted another parting quote, here’s a dear line, from a discarded version of Rilke’s ‘Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge’ that sums up better than I can how I feel about the work that still lies ahead, on the page and off:

..he realized that what was within him was scarcely begun; that, if he were to die now, he would not be capable of living in the afterlife; that they would be ashamed, over there, of his rudimentary soul, and would hide it away in eternity like a premature baby.

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Comments 9


At the start of one of my favorite movies of all time, "The Grand Budapest Hotel"- a movie based on a book, the Author/narrator talked about the life of a writer.
The Narrator said that there is a misconception about writing. I can't remember the exact words but what he was trying to say was that, people think a writer simply cooks up stories from his head when in reality, the writer is in fact the most outgoing person that culls his stories based on the society. This means that as an author, you make the loudest silent noise at the center of everything, taking mental notes and piecing them together in a mad frenzy of words to form your story for your audience to digest. This, therefore, means that you will never be lonely in thought because your views and opinions are flowing through the blood stream of your audience.

Thank you for dropping the link on Twitter. Please always share your links with me and welcome back to the community.

14.10.2019 10:12
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Thank you, for your thoughtful reply. I like the idea of a writer holding up a mirror to society. Writing that is not in conversation with others and cut off from the world is dead on the page.

Grateful for your kindness, and wishing you success in what is valuable to you. _/|\_
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14.10.2019 14:48
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For me it is the wall...
Today I am not building the wall, instead I have taken the day off to look at what it is that I am doing and why.
The wall goes up to protect me and depending where I put myself, sometimes I have to build it ever higher.
The wall was begun a very a very long time ago when unfavourable elements attacked me and I was left hurt and feeling vulnerable, so I built a little wall to protect myself, but as I became bigger, over time the wall became smaller so I had to build it bigger until finally it became a monster and although it did its job of keeping out all that was unwanted it left me isolated, until one day my spirit broke the wall down into rubble and I climbed out, but had no protection whatsoever and a terrible fear came and I began to build the wall over again; but building a wall takes a long time and so I am vulnerable and too sensitive because I relied on the wall all my life...so I sit and think about all this...
My favourite writer used to be Richard Brautigan and then Rumi, but these days it's anyone I can find that is a good read...

14.10.2019 10:17
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Thank you, for your trust in sharing this. Walls are dangerous things, keep others out, and us locked in.

Good to hear you're not constructing one, now, and reflecting, instead. I wish you breakthroughs, connection & lightheartedness.

Rumi means a great deal to me. Perhaps, I can interest you in my new book of short meditations:

Peace,
Yahia

14.10.2019 14:44
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14.10.2019 10:22
1

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14.10.2019 23:13
1

Hey, I could get used to this sweet diet--nope, not fattening at all... I'll just cut everything else out, and subsist on cake :) Thanks, for the Love & right back 'atcha!

15.10.2019 18:51
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You? Oh my. You, Yahia, accomplished (and published!) poet that you are, entertain these thoughts? What have I done with my life, I’ll wonder, and has the extraordinary gamble of devoting myself to literature (at the expense of all else) been worth it - YOU?
This:
Literature, my own and others, has in fact, repeatedly, rescued me from loneliness and connected me to the world.*
Yes! When I am most alone, it's BOOKS I turn to. (Or blogs, these days.)
Miraculously, it has gifted me friends across space and time, raising the great dead from previous generations, as well as granting me far flung readers of my own work that I’ve connected with, virtually.
That Rilke quote puts the fear of God in my soul. I am nowhere near ready to die. I'd end up in some limbo or purgatory, inchoate, unfinished, like my writing which I need to polish and publish, but instead I let it collect dust.
Wow.
You really had just the right words at the right time.
Thank you!

15.10.2019 19:47
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Bless you, kindred spirit. Yes, we've come some ways you and I, but there is still a long way to go (as we know in our hearts).

Glad this resonated and may we become who we promised ourselves to be ... irrespective of what the world calls success.

16.10.2019 16:54
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