On Writing

Must I write?

My favourite quote EVER about the ‘need’ to be a writer:

“Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you write. This above all – ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple “I must,” then build your life according to this necessity; your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it.”

Rainer Maria Rilke, ‘Letters To A Young Poet’.

I mean, for balls sake. THIS. IS. MY. TRUTH.

I remember when I first read this passage I cried. Rilke’s words captured and communicated what I’d been attempting to capture and communicate about how I was feeling about being a writer. I stood firm in the belief that YES – I MUST WRITE.

And I wrote.

And I got married.

And I had children.

And published my first book.

And I forgot.

I forgot how writing was my essence – even though I was doing so much of it. I forgot about the simple pleasure of giving in to the URGE. I forgot about the courage and  passion it takes to consciously choose to live a creative life. To make self-expression through the written word be an extension of the universe and of humanity and of what makes me feel alive.

I forgot about what it feels like to write without deadline or contest or goal.  Because to me, it feels different.

So I went back. I went back to what inspired me then – and, of course, it still inspires me now. And I will continue to do this. To go back. To find those passages, those words, those people who inspire the words unconditionally.

What do you to to remember why you write if/when you get a little (or a lot) lost?

One thought on “Must I write?

  1. My dear Vanessa, when I need to remember why I write, when I’ve strayed from my life’s purpose and need to return, I read your blog, or talk to you, or just think about what you’ve accomplished, the myriad ways you’ve expressed your creative heart and I can feel my inner world start to right itself, come back to the centre, and I regain my balance once again. You don’t know how many times you’ve helped me to find my way, and do it without guilt, how you’ve taught me to be gentle with myself when I’ve been away from writing for a while. Words cannot express my gratitude for your example and your presence in my life, but they’ll have to do – Thank You.
    And I’d love to borrow Rilke’s book from you sometime! 🙂


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