Writing With a Trouble-Free Mind
“In these troubled times” is a strangely timeless expression. It shouldn’t be timeless. It should apply specifically to the speaker’s time. And yet, depending on what you read or watch or who you talk to, we are always living in troubled times. There is always a disaster that has struck somewhere, there is always a war being fought, always poverty, always drought, always the threat of some crisis on the horizon. No matter how comfortable your corner of the world may appear, somewhere the discomfort of trouble looms, and might be headed your way. I must ignore these troubles when I write, even though there would be nothing to write about without trouble. It’s true. There would be no stories to tell unless our characters got into trouble. There would be no essays or poems to write without troubled hearts in search of relief. But I cannot write a word until my mind is trouble-free. The only troubles I can concern myself with are those I create to serve the story I want to tell.
Which is why writing to me is a spiritual practice. Do not make too much of this term, spiritual practice. It is not as fancy as it may sound. It means only this: Everything is okay even though it looks like everything is not okay. That’s it. Spirituality is the practice of knowing everything is okay without proof. It is easy to believe you have proven everything is terrible by having a look around and concluding, “Look at all this crap.” It is impossible to prove that everything is okay even though it looks like everything is not okay. This is why spirituality doesn’t make it into courtrooms or laboratories.
But it is essential to the writer. I get zero proof that what I am writing is worth writing, other than my interest in what I am writing. I must rest upon my own unique interest without the handholds of applause or reviews or critique. These may all come later, but first there is the question, “What would I like to say today?” The degree to which I have faith in how that question is answered is my writer’s confidence. There is no better feeling than resting in that confidence. It is the only true experience of freedom I have ever known. To rest in it completely, even for one sentence, is to be free from the world over which I have never had any control.
My more scientific friends do not like this word “spirituality.” It’s not to be trusted. It is free license to just do whatever the heck you want to satisfy some intangible feeling. Then again, these scientists are trying to make the world a nicer, safer, warmer place in which to live. They are trying to solve all those troubles, and I thank them for it. I, meanwhile, spend my days cultivating imaginary troubles. It seems almost irresponsible by comparison.
Funny, though, that neither the scientists nor I would have much to do without troubles, real or imagined. If our times were not troubled, what would we do with ourselves all day long? Perhaps we would spend our time telling stories about the days when there were troubles, days of despair and anger and conflict. And if we told these stories very convincingly, so convincingly we nearly believed those troubles were our own, we would no doubt end the story glad again to be living in a time when everything was okay.
"A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.
You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com