Writing has been for me blank pieces of paper and either a blank mind or one too full for me to even begin to uncover and pull apart everything inside. It has been hours of frustration because something I love to do should be easy, right? It has been crumpled sheets of paper lying on the floor, while I sit at my desk in defeat, wondering why the defeat hurts so much. I wonder why it is so important for the words to come out as they should. No one ever said it is easy, and so I keep at it, but why? I read all these brilliant works of people who are able to bring their words and cut through to my soul, and I wonder why I can’t be like them. My words do not satisfy me. My own writing often comes in the form of poetry, and I remember that first poem I wrote, sitting on the edge of my bed with an ache so deep inside of me I could not name it, a fear so deep I could not find the courage to even look at it. So rather than face it head on, I picked up a pencil and started writing, hoping I could find an escape from that thing I could not, yet knew I had to, face. So like Theseus from the ancient Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, I took with me a ball of string deep into the underground labyrinth, so that once I found the monster inside I could find my way out again rather than become the monster itself. Because, you see, this monster doesn’t just kill his victims, he sucks them in and makes them a part of himself. So I struggled to find the words, but I emerged from the labyrinth exhausted, with tears in my eyes and an untouchable pain in my heart, and I wasn’t even sure why. But in those tears was freedom, and the thirst for this freedom became unquenchable. My writing journey began there, the first time I entered the labyrinth and emerged, exhausted, yet victorious.
I rip through drafts and versions and sometimes leave things incomplete and crumpled, yet no matter how many times I declare something complete, I know it is never complete. If we speak of works that live on through the ages, we must know that there is never an ending to the words we write. They are preserved for no other reason than that someone, somewhere, either thinks them ugly enough to despise or thinks them beautiful enough to be kept. Gertrude Stein said that “writing is neither remembering nor forgetting, neither beginning nor ending,” and she is right to say that, because in my experience, writing is living. It lives the moment I write it; it remains alive for those who read it. And even if it lies untouched for thousands of years, when discovered again it is resurrected, and this is why it is important that I persevere through the frustration of the meaningless words that come out because of some desire to see marks on a page rather than a baring of my soul. Because these words never die. They may not reshape or remake anyone’s world but mine, but they are still worth writing because they live. Stein says, “In writing not anyone finishes anything. That is what makes a masterpiece what it is, that there is no finishing.” Writing is important to me for that reason. Words I wrote years ago still echo in my mind because I persevered, because I found my way through the labyrinth of my own memories and experiences and killed that monster, and one does not easily forget a journey like that. And writing, each time, is that very journey. As writers we must return again and again to that labyrinth and find that monster that fills us with fear, and we must kill it. As writers we have a desire to go into that darkness and face whatever it is we find, a desire that cannot be extinguished. Darkness calls out to us and we cannot ignore it; we must answer. We must. It is an ache, a longing, that everyone has yet most are too afraid to admit.
Unwritten words are not remembered, and it is a great responsibility of a writer to makes sure all that can be said is said and remembered, otherwise, what is the point? As a writer, my mind is haunted by words left unwritten. It is as if I faced the darkness, entered the labyrinth, did battle with the monster, and then fled because I lost courage. It is as if I left him wounded, yet alive and therefore victorious over me. Writing takes courage, deep courage, and the life of the writer is to leave no words unwritten that
have the possibility of becoming a masterpiece. We dare not stop before every thought is expressed. They will be rearranged later if needed, but they must not be smothered. This is my greatest mistake and always has been. I smother what I think I cannot communicate perfectly. I do not realize that it takes constant revision to uncover what I am really trying to say. I am afraid to get dirty. And so I give up, far too easily and too quickly, and leave things truly unfinished, out of fear. Fear has halted my mind from exploring, and my heart from feeling, so many times. If writing must remake someone’s world, let it begin here, with mine. For me the goal of writing is too free myself, and if I must, I will spend a lifetime doing just that, returning to the labyrinth, until the monster loses its grip and never again rises.
- Naomi McPeters