Monday, June 21, 2010

On the Right to Write

Artists and poets and composers of all stripes are wont to protest that "it only comes through me." True enough, to an extent; but on the other hand we also originate. What distinguishes humans from less complicated creatures is not just the ability to communicate with words and symbols, but personal responsibility for what we say. For those of us who are of the shy or self-effacing persuasion, that can be intimidating. But lately it occurs to me that we might be held equally responsible for what we don't say.

Hence this blog.

Though I've been a jack of many trades, for a number of years I made a living largely as a writer for hire, selling words more or less by the pound. As a copywriter or ghostwriter or editor or amanuensis I would give voice to the various agendas of those who engaged my services - provided of course that I could find some alignment with their intentions, that their products or purposes did not conflict with
values I hold dear. I'd write my own stuff from time to time; an article here or there, an insight, an occasional song or poem, a fragment of a story or an outline for some as-yet-unwritten masterpiece. But for the most part the more I wrote for others, the less juice I had left with which to water my own garden. At one point I realized that if I were ever to come unblocked and really speak my mind, I'd have to find another profession first. That was one of my motivations for returning to graduate school in my late forties and turning a lifelong avocational love of Chinese medicine into a new career. "Live by the work of your hands," sings the Psalmist, "and you'll be happy." So I became an acupuncturist.

As the mind ripens, introspection seeks expression. The advent of the blog as a literary medium has some distinct advantages. Not unlike 'journaling' as a therapeutic exercise or the practice of writing morning pages (as popularized by
Julia Cameron), a blog invites spontaneity and immediacy, does not necessarily demand rigorous scholarship, and tends to disarm that pesky left-brain editor. It also invites comment and feedback. I'll refrain from discussing its disadvantages just now - I don't want to talk myself out of this enterprise before it lifts off.

So we'll see where this leads. Often during prayer or meditation, or while studying and ruminating on some seminal text, a seed of thought will flash past my field of vision that cries to be fleshed out in full-blown form. That that rarely happens - life's to-do lists come fast and furious, do they not? - has been no small source of frustration. Excuses begone: it's my intention to make this space a place where such flashes of lightning become not just thunder, but rain that falls on fertile earth.


  1. Well this is a welcome innovation. Good for you! Look forward to reading more.

    Chaya Esther

  2. Dear Simcha, thanks for sharing! Like you are describing, I have been making my living through other people's writing for the most part and am also finding my own sources of creativity drained. That's why I farm and play music. I am getting more and more into doing my own writing, so thanks for the encouragement and I look forward to more posts!