What I Made Today

I have been feeling the all over blues. The “who gives a shit about what I have to say,” “forget about will anyone read me tomorrow, will anyone read me today?” blues.

This malady has had me dragging myself around in my head for weeks. My writing has come to a dead standstill, the rest of my life leaving little space for the quiet I seem to need to create. Then today came this post about writing being message driven, which jogged some part of me to say, “Not so.” And I came here to explain why.

What writing—what art—means to me is so much simpler. It makes but one statement: I was here, and this is what I made.

Be it a wordless sequence of notes, a drumbeat, a quilt, a carving, an image made of paint or pencil or pixels, a statue or a sonnet, a dress or a drama, in the act of creating the artist asserts her existence. She marks not only her survival, however temporary, but her ability to construct an experience out of herself that reaches beyond herself.

It says, “This was the experience I rendered, for better or worse.”

You may hate it or praise it; you may find it self-indulgent or transcendent, vulgar or beautiful. You may reject it, forget it, leave it to slip into oblivion. But there is one thing you cannot do to it; you cannot un-make it.

No theories, criticisms, aesthetics, or moralities can take away that making.

James Baldwin says something like this in his essay—one of my all-time favorite essays—“The Uses of the Blues.” What Bessie Smith sang, what Louis Armstrong played, what Hank Williams or Ellis Regina or Joni Mitchell cry out in their aching voices, doesn’t clutch at my heart because of any message. I don’t keep returning to Kurt Vonnegut’s or Leslie Marmon Silko’s writing for a moral or a map of how to live.

I look at Vincent’s quavering stars because he saw them and found a way to make them quaver for me.

When I write, that experience of making belongs to me. To me and the work. And even if no history records it, even if no object itself is, in the end, left behind, that moment of making that the work and I shared will echo as long as existence continues.

I write because it gives me the purest outlet I have yet found for who I am. Not for what I or my times might mean, heaven knows. But because it lets out this consciousness that I inhabit and renders it for others, maybe, to experience.

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5 thoughts on “What I Made Today

  1. Perfectly said. Writing is how I translate the world — my world. How I express some small part of my existence. If there’s any message in it, it’ll be subjective to the reader (should there even be a reader), and it’s certainly never predetermined. Feels a bit odd to take the stance against my fellow muse, but I’m in your camp on this one.

    Reminds me of how they say literary theorists and their various close readings see more into a work than the author ever intended. We see what we want to see.

  2. Love the discussion that the post stirred up. However, I still firmly believe that there are messages in every story that was shaped by the author’s life experiences. I just can’t subscribe to the theory of a “story for the story’s sake”. Guess I am falling into the literary theorist category…

    • I agree with you about the “shaped by the author’s life experiences” part, just not about the “messages” part, at least not in my case. But I don’t doubt that this motivates some writers (and other artists); I’m just saying it doesn’t motivate me. And the question of literary theorists is interesting. Because you can think of the literary theorist as another kind of storyteller, only his story is about the author or the work, and through the theory, she is rendering her experience of that author or work and trying to create for you, the reader, a similar experience of that author/work that resonates with the experience the theorist had. And literary theory still fascinates me, but more for the experience it creates for me as a reader than for accuracy of its analysis.That’s why my fave “literary theorist” is a guy named Kenneth Burke.

  3. As long as existence continues…I love the way your words make me feel. The message and purpose seem a second and third tier beyond the creation itself, and through my lens, irrelevant to those quavering stars. Thank you for getting the flow of ideas down in this way – in a way that makes me feel so expanded and free! x!m

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