Paris Letters #26

William Blake says, ‘The fool who persists in his folly will become wise’ and ‘The road of excess leads to the palace’ of wisdom. Writing is for fools who like the drunken state. I’m pretty sure that if I didn’t engage in some kind of creative expression I’d be an addict of some sort. In fact, I’m pretty sure I am an addict — an addict of ‘the word’. This writing is my folly, my crack pipe.

It is from a wound, an aberration, from whence these spring flowers arise. It’s from being tongue tied before eternity — that I feign to speak here. As a shy young person I felt I had to write myself into existence, otherwise I wouldn’t exist. It’s true in a way. We don’t really exist until we embody our creative potential, whatever that might be.

Recently, I came upon my early journals. Mountains and mountains of words. It was remarkable to me how little I recognised that would-be Shakespeare. And how bad was the writing! Such puffery didn’t even merit burning, so I put the whole lot in the compost instead — with gentle forgiveness for my earlier self. There was hardly an iota of art in all that scribbling, it was just rotting vegetables and egg shells — process.

Writing (to me) is all the things you can’t say in ordinary conversation, or that you forgot to say to the dead — an unburdening of ancient knots. It is also an obsession. For instance, If I discover a writer I really love I want to consume everything he or she ever wrote — the worst and the best passages, the miscellaneous pillow talk. I have to be possessed, burdened, be violated by that writer to really love him or her. And I am a jealous lover: I want to surpass and conquer. I go through incredible vicissitudes, negotiating the place of that writer in my heart.

It might take years of practice, of writing nonsense, of sophistry and craftsmanship, before an authentic voice starts to emerge. In the beginning, one is extremely self-conscious and doubts everything. It’s a bloody task — but we continue because we have been instructed by the muse. When we persist in our folly — when we shed the ‘image’ of ourselves as writers — we start to win the fight. After much failure and frustration we find the bliss of writing. We do it for pleasure — as much as for serious reasons. Good writing is hedonism.

The ever ernest George Orwell missed that part, when he said that ‘all writing is political’ — the bliss. And writing is also a spiritual practice because words have consequences in one’s spiritual existence. Idealy, writing is a combination of high metaphysical seriousness and serious play. There has to be equal measures of joy and gravity for the vessel to be sea worthy. I’m getting there.

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