It’s interesting, because the standard advice given to writers is “write what you know.” This takes that quote to an entirely different realm. The act of writing has always been a revelatory one, and always will; it bares all of the layers of your soul, and you will be astonished at the unexpected delights you find therein. The pen helps you to uncover certain truths about yourself. You mine the wealth of your unconsciousness to discover these rough-hewn diamonds, and then you ceaselessly polish them to bring out their inner light. In that way, the act of writing becomes self-remembrance, and thus it becomes a continual process of self-exploration. Writing is also a two-way street – it changes you, as much as you change it. It ever so lovingly plumbs your psychic depths.
You always uncover unexpected epiphanies about yourself, and there is no end to this process. They were always there, waiting to be unburied. Writing is also an exceedingly brave act. You have to brave enough to see what is inside you, and sometimes you don’t know something until the words are put to paper. Great writers know that the words do not belong to them…that they are bringing something from the realm that transcends space and time, which Jung called the “collective unconscious.” This term is all-too clinical sounding and a bit clichéd by now for my tastes. We almost need to reinvent language to describe this rapturous process wherein the writer is able to somehow become deliriously at one with the transcendent realm, and allow the raging river that is the universal consciousness to flow through him unabated. Only the most heroic amongst us have been brave enough to fully give themselves over to the tumultuous splendor of this force. This is how new realities and an infinitude of possibilities are birthed. Holy warriors, otherwise known as writers or artists, have had to consent to becoming willing vehicles for these transformative energies. These eternal forces are aching to be harnessed.
O’Connor’s quote resonates with me on a personal level as well. When I write, stuff comes out that has the ring of truth. I did not know that I know it, but I do now after I wrote it. I had a supposed talent for writing but for years, I did not enjoy it. I do now, but I am not attached to the fruits of my actions. It is a sacred practice to write. I feel as though in an egoless way, I am bringing more spiritual energy into the world. The only moment that really matters is the writing itself. To be gloriously immersed in the process. If I were to burn the words after, writing would be just as valuable to me. Perhaps I should do that. It would be a written mandala to teach me the impermanence of myself, my words, and my world.
I could burn my work, and see the curling of the pages from the intense heat of the flame. Not unlike my body, when the spark of life leaves it and it is incinerated in the crematorium. I would watch the effulgent sparks of my words ascend heavenward, dancing and sputtering in an ecstatic joy, and be gloriously unattached to the final product. My words would return to the source – the same realm to which I will one day return. By doing so, I emulate the Buddhists who practice the art of painstakingly creating beautiful patterns in the sand, and then gently giving them back to the formless with one holy breath. I have been thinking about that quote a whole lot today.