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.