Blood & Guts

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Before I started writing this post, I almost made myself stop because I’ve been publishing too many different ideas and writing on this blog over the past week or so, and perhaps not really giving people the chance to read them. But then I said to myself: “that never really stopped you before, just post the damn thing, what do you care?” Well, I do and I don’t. I want people to read what I write obviously, but that want is not as important as the want to write itself.

After I wrote this post with Jane, I felt worried that I wouldn’t be able to get back into this feeling of having so much to say, and saying it, and not placing too much importance on who reads it. I will always be grateful to the people who visit this blog and take the time to respond, and I’ve said before that writing doesn’t really reach its maturity till a reader responds. This is still true. But for a writer to depend entirely on a waiting audience as the primary motivator to sit down and write seems lonely and alienating to me; it’s not how it works for me.

I’m relieved that I got my motivation to write on this blog, deep down inside, back because Jane and I felt quite despondent about the state of things when we published our co-written post. Perhaps we still do, but I certainly feel (I don’t want to speak for you Jane!) that I’ve learnt something too – something about vanity and ego and its pointlessness in writing. Look, I’m just like everyone else: I seek validation. It’s nice to have your work admired, it’s nice to receive gushing emails, it’s nice to be complimented. But I can thank my parents for teaching me the importance of a healthy scepticism about your own abilities, because most of the time, I don’t believe these compliments – they’re lovely to hear and to receive, and I know that most of the time they are coming from the right place, but I just don’t believe that about myself. Not yet at least, and perhaps never. And maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. A writer without self-scepticism is one who doesn’t sit down to work with editors and consider their input. It’s one who can’t handle constructive criticism. I really hope that will never be me.

Last night, I tweeted about a poem I read, prefacing the poem with this statement: “Every time I think I may one day be able to write good poetry I read a poem like this & realise I’ll never be this good”. There’s a great freedom in realising something like this: that certain writing beckons you as an audience member, as a reader, not as a writer – and that there’s nothing wrong with that. That your ego, your vanity, your need for expression isn’t the primary goal. Of course, I’m not trying to be unfair to the process of writing here: obviously writing isn’t just about ego or vanity or validation, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t one of the factors. What I like is that I feel, at this moment, that the need to be validated and pander to my vanity has slid far down on my list of priorities when I submit writing work to various magazines, journals and editors. There’s something else motivating me, but I don’t have a word for it. This doesn’t mean I’m not ambitious (because I’m incredibly so), or that I suddenly lack a sense of self or confidence about what I’m capable of doing. But it does mean I can put things in perspective better. This feeling made me think of an article I also read last night called, ‘On Being Nothing’: “With so much happening, society is poorly made to satisfy pride, but well made to satisfy interest, if we will only let go of our vanity and join the swirl of activity.” I’m happy to join.

So I think it’s fitting, on a post like this one, to finish off with someone else’s words – and what words they are. I don’t want to copy and paste the poem I tweeted about last night here, because I think it should be read where it was originally published. So please, do yourself a favour and go read it. I call this a ‘blood and guts poem’; a poem that seeps into your insides without bullshit. Blood and guts.


hannah debbie said...

I don't have much to say to this except that yeah, it's good to know I'm not the only one that seeks validation. And it's good to know that I'm also not the only one that never ever believes a compliment.

Petra said...

a very interesting post. as always. I'm with you on the ambivalence of writing. and the validation (or criticism) that comes with it. I was taught an unhealthy scepticism about my own abilities, so I struggle with it differently. but struggling I do...

Odessa said...

very interesting post, hila. i didn't really consider my writing as "legit" (whatever that means, to me) until i was in my mid-20s and only very few people even knew that i write. i was in an entirely different career track (still am) in the healthcare profession and writing in my journals was just something that i did since i was a teenager. but those darn poems and stories were just begging to get out of my system and then something inside me shifted and thought maybe i can write creatively. still, i definitely struggle with getting my work out there and i am terrible at submitting anything for publication. i used to be in a writing group and when my teacher or classmates praise my writing that was enough validation for me. so yes, i need to aim higher maybe.

and wow, that poem is so powerful. the title and the closing lines are very tender and just ties it all together. thank you for sharing this!

rooth said...

I'm glad you decided to just "post the damn thing." Sure we write for others and we hope people enjoy what we write as well. But sometimes, it's just for you. For you to express a feeling, a moment and store that memory in some type of medium. And that should be enough, shouldn't it?

Olga Bennett said...

Very interesting post, Hila.

I think quiet a bit about creating for myself versus for the audience and need of recognition. I think both motivations are essential, and there is always a balancing act involved between the two.

I also think that we all are relying on artists of all kinds, and writers even more so, to express something that we are ourselves feel but can't quiet express. I know I do. And perhaps that is where compliments come from and why they might be worth something. That sense of recognising your own half formed thoughts in somebody else's writing. That's one of the main reasons I read and enjoy it so much, when I come to think about it.

And thank you for the link to the poem and an article, I enjoyed both in different ways.

caferennais said...

In seeking validation...sometimes we lose our real (whole) selves in the process.

Keep on writing Hila, posts like this inspire me.

It also reminded me of a favorite quote of mine by Stephen King,"The most important things in life are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them - words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out. But it's more than that, isn't it? The most important things live too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you've said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried when you were saying it. That's the worst I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller, but for want of an understanding ear."

Inspired all the way from Manila, Dang :)

Debie Grace said...

Dear Hila, I love reading this. (I read this twice, to be honest!) You are such an inspiration. Keep writing :)

Hila said...

hannah debbie: I always feel ungenerous and precious though, when I don't believe compliments. I can't win, ha!

Petra: I think we all struggle with ourselves, in one form or another. I just feel grateful that I have productive ways in which to deal with it all - i.e. writing.

Odessa: You're not the only one. Up until recently, I was really bad at submitting work for publication. But the worst thing that can happen is rejection, which really isn't that bad. You move on, and try again. I don't consider myself 'legit' either, but I still try. I think you should definitely try too - if you've got something to say, the best thing is to say it.

Rooth: It should be enough, it is for me sometimes, and others, not so much.

Olga: I absolutely agree with you, it is a balancing act. I think we need the audience to stop the free-flow into self-indulgence, and to receive feedback, and to remind us that it isn't all about us. But we also need to know when to let go of expectations, and do what feels right instinctively. Both impulses inform my writing, in different ways.

"I also think that we all are relying on artists of all kinds, and writers even more so, to express something that we are ourselves feel but can't quiet express. I know I do. And perhaps that is where compliments come from and why they might be worth something." Yes, I agree once again. I do appreciate the compliments, and I didn't mean to diminish them in this post in any way.

caferennais: "When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller, but for want of an understanding ear." That's so true. Thank you for this.

Debie Grace: thanks!

rusty {rambles} said...

So well put, and so greatly added to by people's comments! I write a lot of reports for others in my job, so writing for myself is a pleasure; a reader is an added (and much-appreciated!) bonus.
Writing without seeking validation from others sounds liberating. If we can have confidence and joy in our actions, without needing praise and affirmation from others, I think we're doing ok. It's hard to not seek that out though!

Hila said...

Rusty: maybe we need other people to keep us in check so to speak, to offer different perspectives, and so on. But to depend on that entirely doesn't sit right with me, and I also wish that desire for validation didn't exist sometimes - even if it is natural.

vegetablej said...

Blood and guts -- and tears.

Like W.H.Auden's poem, somehow rhyming us, like a child's verse with teeth, to a this-moment experience of grief and remembrance.

Such a human being, this Mark Mordue, And you, Hila.

Hila said...

Ah, he is such a human being ;)