Writing is equal parts pain and pride, ease and effort, ardor and acceptance.
The pain is drawn from words, which torn from the heart, bleed raw and wet on the page. The pride is preened with the belief that what we write will elevate us and last longer than our own selves. With ease, the sentences mold to each other in fluid-fashion, and with effort, the ideas that bind us refuse to be transferred to mere words. Writing is an art, that without ardor, has no hope of ever communicating with the world. But writing is also a confession; the acceptance of what we fear, what we love, and what we want.
So how do writers write? Ernest Hemingway is credited with saying, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” This can be interpreted in more than one way; writing should come from within, honest and raw and real and never forced. But there is no such thing as a perfect writer, who can spew out sentence after sentence without questioning their syntax or sense. To write well, a level of ferocity is required. If necessary, a writer must rip out the words, showing no mercy, and possibly damaging themselves in the process. To write is to feel, and to feel is everything; heartache, desolation, vivacity, elation.
In short, writers must extract their voice. There is no formula to writing, no set of guidelines that one can refer to when questioning where to put this word and how to convey that idea. Sure, countless resources and advice can be found in books and online, but none of them can give a writer voice. The voice makes the writer, and essentially dictates how one writes. But voice is not limited to writing; it communicates through all forms of art.
For example, Shintaro Ohata, a Japanese multimedia artist, found his voice through depicting little things in everyday life. By pairing sculptures with paintings, he captures a unique light in his portrayal of everything from convenience stores at night, city roads on rainy days, and even fast-food restaurants at sunrise. On his most recent showing, “Polaris”, Shintaro Ohata says, “I named this exhibition ‘Polaris’ because I long for something absolute and firm like ‘Polaris’, which is always very bright and seems to be situated in the same place of the universe at all time.” His voice lies in his use of different mediums to portray the beauty that can found in simplicity.
In many ways, visual artists, such as as filmmakers and sculptors, go through the same process as writers when it comes to finding their voice. They feel the same conflicting emotions; the uncertainty of what will come of their work, the passion that goes into creation, and in the end, what the piece is really all about; the confession. It is the confession that communicates with the target audience, grasping their attention and gravitating them towards the idea, the art, or the product. And it is the confession, the pain, the passion- that makes the voice.
Will these chilling encumbrances never cease?
I am haunted by want, my soul turns to desolation.
Desire ruthlessly burns a forbidden path,
a flaming stepping stone along sets my fate.
But I can never be free from rejection,
never retire from this incessant burden.
It is who I am.
They call me parasite,
they say I am a leech adhered at the heel;
determined, stubborn, indignant.
I will suck you dry until you are a mere shell,
but what will you get in return?
A hopeless dream of chances yet unheard?
A faithful drone by your side eternally?
I would laugh, because you should know:
That is not who I am.
Today I was sifting through the dusty labyrinth of my computer archives, and found this poem. It’s from a few years back, when I was taking a course on American Literature. I wrote it in response to the character Lily Bart from The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton.
In The House of Mirth, Lily’s a beautiful, young socialite in 1905 New York, whose biggest character flaw is her pride. In the poem (which is written from Lily’s perspective), I aimed to get across her desperate desire for financial security. When she turns to a married man for support, though, he asks for more from her-more than she is willing to give. In the end, Lily may be a ‘gold-digger’, but she isn’t willing to sacrifice herself.
I enjoy the unraveling,
I live for the challenging,
The mystery’s only fun
when the chase has begun,
and the puzzle isn’t puzzling
’til I’ve given it a spun,
and revealing the riddle
isn’t the end of a case,
but the death of a hurdling,
I devour the swindling,
I live for the kindling,
oh so vexing,
Your words are foul,
both birdlike and base,
and the fury that swarms me
when you speak
is a frightening thing.
Your voice digs into my skin,
fierce as a crow’s squawk
and sharper than its talons,
and though you have done me no wrong
but to poison the air with your tongue,
it is animus that ignites me.
I have no right to hate,
I have no right to wish your lips still
or dream of my ears falling off
so that I should never
be filled with your foul words again.
My anger astounds me,
my animus alarms me.
and yowls of beasts
would be harmonious in place
of your toxic breath.
If only you’d quiet,
if only you’d listen,
if only you’d realize your rancid words.
Then perhaps I would be relieved of
This poem ended up going a bit differently than I originally planned. Its structure’s a bit iffy, so I might come back to it later to iron out some kinks. The narrator of this poem is a pretty messed-up original character of mine, in case you were wondering.