Earlier today, I answered a question that was put to the writing community of Instagram as part of the #AuthorsChallenge2019: “why write?” Reflecting on that question has deeply inspired me. It has reminded me exactly why I’m so driven to sit down, day after day, and continue to work on refining my novel manuscripts, even though I do not yet have an agent, a publishing deal or any of the other traditional markers of ‘success.’
Why do I write? The simple answer is: because I can’t not write. I can try to avoid it – I can run away from the stories that take root and burst into bloom within my mind and heart, clamouring to be heard – but something much bigger than my fear will always send me right back to my notebooks, my laptop, my random scraps of paper, or whatever else I happen to be using in any given moment. The stories that come through when I sit down, commit, and actually do some work are far bigger than me: they are bigger than my neuroses, my doubts, my insecurities and my considerable fear of failure. The stories drive me on.
Whenever my writing efforts become a little too intense for my liking – whenever I sit at my desk and wonder what on Earth I’m talking about, how I’m ever going to explain a particular plot point in a way that makes sense, whether people will think I’m spouting nothing but nonsense, and whether this whole thing is a terrible idea – simple joys bring me back to a place of peace. Today, that simple joy took on the form of a walk by the Royal Canal. It was bright, sunny, clear and bitterly cold: my favourite kind of winter weather.
Nothing is quite as relaxing as a spot of bird-watching!
The walk put me in mind of one of my favourite poems: Wild Geese by the late, great Mary Oliver. This poem carries an amazing, tranquil quality that never fails to soothe my frazzled spirit.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
To all other writers, artists and creative types out there: keep striving. Keep working. Keep refining your craft. Stay committed to your work and know that you will get there. ❤️