Wednesday, May 25, 2011

if you want to write....

A couple days ago I was listening to a great interview on the Diane Rehm Show. This time it was with the novelist Edna O'Brien. Now I must confess that while I had heard her name--I knew almost nothing about her or her work. Sure I must have seen it in passing--but recently I haven't been reading that many novels. But of course Diane is so considerate and thoughtful, I had to pay attention.

I learned that she is an Irish novelist known for her books that explore the inner lives of women and her memories of growing up Catholic in Ireland. She wrote her first novel The Country Girls in the course of three weeks--only to have it banned by the Irish clergy. Indeed her own mother had taken a black pencil to the copy that Edna had given her and crossed out all the obscenities. Fascinating story and wonderful use of language. You can check out the interview HERE.

Now listeners can call in during parts of the show and ask the guests questions. Of course there was the inevitable question from an aspiring author who wanted advice on how to write a novel and get it published. Edna's advice was so succinct and perfect:

                                                 If you want to write, write.

Simple. But not easy. Basically the equivalent of that slogan we all know-- "Just do it." Don't write for others, don't write assuming that you will get published. Just write. Put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard as the case may be. Just do it.

At lunch that day I was leafing through my latest copy of American Craft. There was an interesting editorial by Monica Moses--the new Editor-In-Chief--in which she also discusses the desire that we all have to make things. Indeed she hypothesizes that customers come the the American Craft Shows in part because they want to live vicariously through the work of different craft artists. They want to think that they can make something like what they are seeing. She advised the readers to actually take the time to make something. Take a class at Haystack. Use your hands.

Now if I stopped writing this post here, everyone would agree with me. Great idea, Ann. Yes, we should all make something. And quite frankly I do agree that we need that pleasure of creating things by hand. Indeed I wrote about that very concept in my post and the power of the hand HERE.

But--and you knew there would be a big BUT--we also need to look at the work of the many fine craftspeople as also being art. It is not just the fact that they are making something with their hands, but also the fact that the art they are making can take us to a new and different place. Give us new insight into how we perceive the world around us. Startle us. Amaze us.

When I go to the opera, I do not think that I could be on stage singing that aria. No, I marvel at the subtle range of emotion that the voice can convey from the softest whisper to the greatest tumults of human emotion. When I hear the symphony perform Mahler, I get taken to a deep place within me--emotions that don't have names are stirred within me.  When I walk across the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, I don't think that my garden can look like that.

And when I go to a fine craft show or a gallery or a museum, I don't think I can make that a sophisticated glass vase like my neighbor Ed Branson does that dances into the thinnest of points.  I don't think I can create the complex woven baskets of my friend Kari Lonning that create spaces of the imagination inside and out. I don't even think how to recreate the simple but complex quilts of Erin Wilson, even though I might have the technical skills to do that. But I don't have her vision, her sense of color and design, her originality in the countless designs she creates.  Instead I enjoy the sweep of color and the intricate possibilities that she conveys.

Yes, we do need to make things--whether it is craft or cooking or gardening or whatever--but I think that we also have to allow ourselves to go beyond that feeling of doing it yourself to maintain that awe of what the human spirit can accomplish. How much one person can explore the intricacies of the human emotion and condition by delving deep into their own selves?

As Edna O'Brien said, write if you want to write. Write for yourself and see what happens. If you want to make a craft, take a class, learn the skills, do it. Enjoy yourselves. But don't let that interfere with your appreciation and marvel at the human potential. At least that's my two cents, I would love to hear what you think.

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully said, Ann! I feel so sorry for people who seem to have lost the ability to "maintain the awe". Keep the child-like wonder and spirit within you. ��