A Writer’s Labour
‘I ask of literature precisely those things of which I feel the lack in my own life. I appeal for charity, and implore that literature afford me what I cannot come by in myself…’
I write largely for the reasons why I read, the ones that remain when there’s no need for reason at all, when physical necessity slumbers and worldly concern shrinks away into its corner. After the demands of existing have lessened, the quiet diminution returns to me that mysterious and elusive substance of life, and in the quickness of that wonder does writing find for force its wider speculation.
The business of writing is the one of the ‘self’, of setting free that conundrum to grope about and discover everything it inherits and enjoins. It is the careful study of one’s own stuff, prepared to meet with whatever ugliness and perversion await it, carried on by the hope to find there instead the genius of beauty and passion. It is consciousness come to the page to make its own witness.
To understate its importance—as any attempt at describing it ought to prove—writing is no less than that deliberate act of answering, Who is this thing called ‘I’? And to put the significance beyond doubt, it is by this particular inheritance that we may suppose ourselves alive.
Is there a better way to assert yourself over life than by writing? How these two forces are inextricably bound, that one should give unto the other its natural beginning and receive in return its small enduring end; that living should inspire the will to write, so to bear forth its meaning and belief.
The receipt of living is in the written word, and the proof of that existence in its author. There is no understanding of oneself without writing, as there is no true consciousness without the same. One cannot apply to life for charm and awe if he does not give himself the first address. In a similar manner will he fail the tragedy of death without the requisite knowledge, What is it that dies?
By the intellectual’s point of view there are many equal paths for knowing oneself, art, it would seem to say–and in the case I am making, literature—is not the only road onto that inscription at Delphi. And this would be fine except that I am no intellectual, and little interested in the apparent truth of their methods. I will never be convinced of toothless philosophic quantities for explaining to me something which is already so fully captured in the written tradition and storied works.
Life cannot be measured out in argument or made to conform with reasoned principle precisely because it is the opposite of reason, the immaterial experienced and observed, like a dream that refutes all casts imposed on it by feeble human need for definition.
Life lives in observation, in the lack of good sense that is not afraid to accept the unknown so long as it can first experience and endure it. Behind every instance of good writing is a kind of resignation, a submission to one’s own inconsequence which somewhere permits of just enough honesty to do the writer’s labour: to reach forth and seize from out the lap of madness the purest expression of the self.