every once in a while, something magical will come along and remind me of why i am a writer.
why i can’t not be a writer. why i need to write.
i’m lucky to get these reminders, since i often find myself occupying an ambivalent relationship to writing and hear myself grumbling to no one in particular that i’m not a real writer. i’m not a real artist or a real activist, and i faked my way all through academia (that last part may be the most true :P). i get this way because there are so many unspoken but understood confines and rules about what you SHOULD think like, behave like, feel like, to be any of those things, most of which i cannot get myself to fit into. so similar to how i often feel like a failure as a queer person, a brown person, or as a woman in general. yet, i am all these things to the best of my ability, to my most ferocious ability, because they mean something to me. embracing in what these qualities mean to me is how i survive.
i can’t deny anymore that writing is a huge part of that. a recent writing workshop i attended with Sorayya Khan and Naeem Inayatullah at york university is what reminded me of this magic. the workshop was obviously situated in an academic environment, but since Sorayya is a novelist, much of the conversation we had revolved around creativity. let me just say: if all of grad school had been like this workshop, i would have never left! the environment created by the facilitators, as well as participants, was one where we all learned from each other, and wanted to learn; it was about sharing insights, stories, goals and struggles. it wasn’t about showing off or competing to display what we already know, or what we think we know more than others (which was the most dominant energy i felt during grad school). it wasn’t about who could say the smartest thing, it was about exploring what we didn’t know, and what could be possible.
this might speak to the differences generated by academic forms of writing verses creative forms in general. in academic writing you gather research to come up with some kind of evidence, argument, hypothesis. in creative writing you gather research not to determine what is, but rather, what could be.
one of the most interesting things that came out of this workshop, was the idea that we all write from wounds. (of course, i don’t think that we ALL write from wounds, and it was put forward as a contested idea, but i think the idea was that this was true for those of us whose writing is politically engaged, especially those who are marginalized in some way). a wound is something that is unspeakable, that we are unable to express, similar to a black hole, and we spend our writing orbiting around this black hole, attempting to give voice to something we crave to express.
i thought, well, for me this is true enough, but i also find much of my writing focuses on joy, love, inspiration – also that is somehow unspeakable, yet still so powerful and undeniable. like a wholeness, a skin, that refuses to be broken. ultimately this too is connected to the idea of writing from wounds, since it is a surrounding world structured by oppression and violence that allows for such love to be unspeakable.
we also talked about the process of writing: one of the facilitators mentioned how important it is to love the revision and editing part of writing, as much as you may love the sudden burst of inspiration moments, when everything seems to be flowing so perfectly from your body to the page. inspiration-moments are wonderful, but they do not sustain your writing, it is the revision process that allows your writing “to keep becoming” (quote by Sorayya). personally, i have come to really enjoy editing: it takes a lot of care and consideration to take a feeling/idea/expression that is raw, untamed and wild, and then shape, carve, polish it into something with a meaningful message. it makes me feel like a carpenter. (and in the end, this is all about redemption for sucking at woods class in grade 8!) moreover, it was brought up that an inspiration-moment is not even a ‘moment’ in isolation, but made up of a cumulative process that built up and brought you to the burst.
this is where i start thinking about the connection between writing and our bodies (because what else do i ever think about, EVER? :P). our bodies can experience similar moments of pure pleasure, energy, an inspiration that is other-worldly, for which to capture its true feeling there really are no words. those moments do not come out of nowhere, but they are created and built up; the feeling starts someplace slow and quiet, then with the right combination of physical, emotional, sexual and spiritual energy, it escalates until it explodes, then releases.
mmhmm, that is indeed a moment to love. but what if, just as if with writing, we learned to love our moments of revision and contemplation in relation to our bodies, just as we love our moments of glory? what would it mean to me to love my body when it is quiet, unsure, reeling from pain, closing, resting, deconstructing, reconstructing…just as much as i love it when it is bursting, overflowing, open, inviting? i guess this is something i am still trying to work on, to love myself in the most whole way possible.
all in all, i am reminded of the connections and importance of loving the whole process of writing, of living in my body, of being alive while remembering/feeling/experiencing wounds. to love ourselves is essential in order to keep ourselves becoming, remembering that so many of us “were never meant to survive.”*
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*quote from audre lorde. see: a litany for survival