The Writing Life and book writing craft
On the perils and profundities of the writing life and the art of the writing craft.
A book excerpt from the spiritandflesh.com religion and spirituality online library.
"...the many rooms I came to inhabit over the next few years became my inner-city castle and keep. It was within the protected confines of these cells that, locked away in the inner altar of the soul, the images and tribulations within me would ferment up and boil over, spilling out onto page after page as manic notes, taken like an incarcerated secretary receiving dictation from a verbose and brutal master. In short, I was becoming a writer, which is a simple way of saying- all hope was lost.
I say this because I was not born blessed with an affinity for the artist's finesse in life, but rather for its rough and wild side, and so instead of effortlessly penning artful sentences, eloquently delineating the subtler aspects of life, I had to learn to write as one with only a battleaxe for a quill, and his own blood for the ink.
As such, in the ominous bloodletting now underway, notebook after notebook was soon filled with the flotsam crashing onto the shores of my consciousness- a detritus which was more than likely exhumed, in part, because of the innumerable texts and treatises I was omnivorously devouring at the time, for I consumed anything and everything to fuel the fire: mystical Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Zen, abstract secularism, literary exegesis, poetry, psychoanalysis, philosophy, alchemy, esotericism, and all the rest of the extant tomes to be found by the perplexed and uncomfortable mind. I would devour one book and instantly be ravenous for another. Nothing could fill the void nor satisfy my hunger. As soon as I came to one realization- or what I erroneously thought at the time was a realization- I was instantly ready for another. The movement had to keep going, to wherever, and however, it didn't matter, as long as it didn't stop. I had forsaken the world, and it was only in between the covers of books where I sought comfort, company and inspiration, and the delirious effulgence's awaiting therein.
I was so easily transported into exalted contemplation during those days, insatiably attempting to gobble down the entire breadth of numinous writings from the past. It seemed that whatever I picked up at the library, or bought, or was loaned from a friend, inevitably contained precise and timely import into the current riddle I was facing inwardly. And if not, at least the book spawned another, deeper, more all-encompassing riddle which would swallow up its predecessor, as if saying- "Look here, you're not a bloody mystery, you're nothing but a puzzle waiting to be solved. Stand aside, for I come as a true enigma." And generally it was. As such I can honestly say, in all those years of reading and research, that instead of getting closer to understanding, I fell farther and farther away from it. And what a glorious and unexpected delight this turned out to be.
Early in the week I'd put on a large batch of homemade beer, wine, or port, buy a small supply of dope, and cook up a huge pot of curry, or chilli, or some such muck that would stick to the ribcage, and would last me the week, so that I could get on with the rest of it. Whatever that rest of it was.
I'd lock the door to my phrontistery, close the curtains, sit down, and begin the incessant reading, writing, drinking, smoking, thinking, eating, sleeping, wondering, going nuts, entering into euphoria, then meaninglessness, then bliss, on and on, as these multifarious aspects of my now wholly self-contained existence filled one singularly consecrated purpose- to figure things out. For months and then years on end I, in my own very imperfect way, chased down the disorienting conglomeration of antiquated, conceptual tunnels to which we are both the heirs and prisoners.
It was as if I was engaged in an internal inquisition, in which I was both prosecutor and defendant, where I sought and exposed the renegade phantoms, mute wise men, cowards, shadows, heroes, madmen, rebels, harlots, hags, and cherubim which populated my subconscious. I was unearthing myself with nothing but a pen to gouge out and excavate my insides, but I was doing it. Word by word, sentence-by-sentence, notebook-by-notebook, the endless array of thoughts and images came streaming out of me to expose the hobgoblins and therefore liberate them onto the page.
There is nothing so painfully delightful as being seized and overtaken by an art form when attempting to cleanse, divulge, and purify one's chaotic insides. Oh, perhaps art is merely a crude, and obsolete method, one which a little prayer and some sound humility might not accomplish in a tenth the time, and yet perhaps not, for when you get right down to the cesspool of the soul you find that you're dealing not only with your own imponderable universe, but with the entirety of history and humanity, perhaps even the interminable cosmos itself, and so to take the irreversible plunge within is not so simple after all."
(excerpted from In and Of: memoirs of a mystic journey, by Jack Haas)