Sometimes you find answers in the most unexpected places… in this case, Facebook. The following picture was taken by an artist named Marrus, then reposted by Theodora Goss (who was one of the instructors at Alpha in 2006), and that’s how I found out that not only did I get the answer I needed, I wasn’t even asking the right question.
The image is of a quote from Martha Graham, typed out and taped to the window of a metalwork shop, and it reads as follows:
“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any medium, and will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.
“You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”
In my last post, I wondered about emotional involvement in my writing. I was thinking of it as an action, if you’ll remember: open word processor, insert heart. But it isn’t like that at all. It’s a mindset. If I’m willing to put myself into the work–as I know I was for To Disturb the Universe, though I have a hard time feeling that way about short stories–that will come through. And worrying about whether other people connect to my work, which is totally out of my hands once I’ve done my best to tell the story, is not my business.
As several people pointed out in the comments on the last post, there’s a balance to be struck between emotional honesty and investment on one hand, and intellectually figuring out what works best for the story on the other hand. Not that the two things are necessarily in opposition… the intellectual part, for me, is often a process of clearing away debris, to make whatever I’m trying to say come through that much more clearly. And I think this idea of “keeping the channel open” is vital to that process. If I don’t know what I’m trying to say, I don’t know which words (sentences, paragraphs, scenes) to keep.
Anyway, because I’m at least temporarily not worrying about at least one of the questions I raised in the last post (shorter version: what if people don’t like it?), I should probably do some actual writing (or more accurately, worldbuilding) while that lasts.