New Year’s Resolution #1

c134024128a0b75edeace010l2Over my winter break I am reading Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art (1980), and within its sage pages have found my New Year’s Resolution for 2009.

In the book, L’Engle (1918-2007) explores what it is that compels the writer to write—what she calls the “vocation of words”—and the despair that can settle in as well.  Throughout her life L’Engle copied quotations into her journal for midnight inspiration.  

In college she included an excerpt from Tchekov’s letters:

“You must once and for all give up being worried about successes and failures.  Don’t let that concern you.  It’s your duty to go on working steadily day by day, quite quietly, to be prepared for mistakes, which are inevitable, and for failures.”

And, years later, an inspiration from Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet:

“You are looking outward, and that above all you should not do now.  Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody.  There is only one single way.  Go into yourself.  Search for the reason that bids you to 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 to 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 testimony to it.”

So, in 2009 I am going to Go into myself and Give up being worried about successes and failures.  For—though I make myriad mistakes and meet failure with publishers and critics, though I am not showered with praise, laurels or money—Write I must.

4 Responses to “New Year’s Resolution #1”
  1. Kristine says:

    I loved that L’Engle brought up the difficulties of making art/writings that communicate. God, I’ve been in places where I couldn’t make anything because I didn’t think it would make sense. Then you end up doing nothing and feeling super guilty. You just have to make it make sense I guess haha. Ugh, art.

  2. GA says:

    And write you should!

  3. Anne Deneen says:

    Dear Kimberly,
    Write you must, and so must I. I want to add a quote to your inspiring list, this one from Audre Lorde: “Your silence will not protect you.” It’s in Sister/Outsider in an essay called “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action.” She delivered it at an MLA conference in 1977. She had been diagnosed with cancer, and the essay is a reflection on what she learned as a writer from facing death. This is what she says:

    “I was going to die, if not sooner then later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you. But for every real word spoken, for every attempt I had ever made to speak those truths for which I am still seeking, I had made contact with other women while we examined the words to fit a world in which we all believed, bridging our differences…What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?”

    She calls herself a “warrior poet doing my work–come to ask you, are you doing yours?”

    Knocked me flat. Anne

    • Kimberlee says:

      Thanks, Anne. What a great addition! Yes, acknowledging the voice inside to the world is so important. Even when we don’t think we have an audience, sometimes that audience finds us in unexpected ways and places—and we both benefit.

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