“This place of which you say ‘It is a waste’…
There shall be heard again the voiceOf mirth and the voice of gladness.”
I'm amused that both Jenna & Mr. Pond doubt their charity, which is visible and inspiring to me. Charity aside, last week's discussion highlighted our similarities, with each of us insisting our literary favorites were, as Mr. Pond put it, "more true..than the capricious, flattening, factual world." I loved the differing understanding of the effects of moonlight and the coming dawn. Moonlight is dangerous, but beautiful, essential for artistic dreamings, which is why, this week, in the darkness of the moon, I'm bringing the discussion over to the lack of dreams. What happens when the artist looses sight of the moon and flounders for awhile?
On nights of a heavy moon, I'm always up late. Shadows dance without candles and the coyotes yip and howl all around us. On those nights I can write late, sleep little and not feel tired. But the dark nights are Lenten - a time to die down to the roots, to gather strength for the coming light. The artistic life, like the natural world, and like the Christian life, is one of rhythms: fast, feast, fast again. The feasting times feed us well enough to last through the long, dry times when nothing is brought forth. The fasts are difficult. It’s hard to remember that they don’t last forever. In the artistic life, it’s tempting to use them as a time to lower standards - to make anything for the sake of having words on a page or pots on a shelf. I would agree, if the thought of a shelf of misshapen pots destined for the slop bucket, or pages tossed in the woodstove didn’t so depress me. Deliberately making disappointments is not the a path I can take out of the darkness.
It seems most writers are divided as to how they cope with the artistic dryness that comes to everyone, at some time or another. Some must "stay drunk on writing so that reality cannot destroy you" (Ray Bradbury), others insist that "One ought only to write when one leaves a piece of one's own flesh in the inkpot" (Lev Tolstoy). I can't say I fall into either camp. Unfortunately, I've too many things to do each day to stay drunk on anything - writing, or vodka, or wine, and I would never get anything written if my flesh had to be included in it all - I haven't anywhere near Tolstoy's intensity (for which my husband is eternally grateful). My dry times are dealt with as Rilke (whose writing continually inspires) recommends:
"to be an artist meant: not to reckon and count, to ripen like the tree which does not force it's sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without fear least no summer might come after."
In the dark nights, I wait, words ripening within, for the moon to light a new path. Not forcing words or faking inspiration. But I'm a part-time writer at best, with no deadlines to follow, and I have the luxury of time.