Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Two Whispers in My Ear

"Being a writer is having angels whisper in your ear - and devils, too."  (Graycie Harmon)

My,'s been awhile since I sat and wrote.  I can probably bluster and shuffle, and come up with all sorts of reasons why:  Been busy, been tired, been sick, ad infinitum.  But I know the real reason why I haven't written.

"...And if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you." (Friedrich Nietzsche)

I haven't wanted to "stare into the emptiness".  I don't know much about Nietzsche; seems like kind of a grim guy (but probably not unusual for a Teutonic philosopher!).  But I understand a little of what he said above.  I wanted to use writing as more than just a way to convey information, or to amuse.  I wanted to use it to explore myself - to find a "voice".  But there's something about exploring that the history books never tell you.  Something that I never remember them telling me as I read about Columbus and Cook, Hudson and Hillary, Polo and Peary...Stanley and Shackleton...

Real exploration can be scary stuff!  That is, if you really are trying to "go someplace you've never been".  You can begin by "hugging the shores" and only "going out so far".  But sooner or later, you have to head out into the darkness - not knowing a thing about where you might wind up, or what you might run into once you take that first step.  And sometimes, I think, the biggest deterrent can be the thought of not finding ANYTHING there.

I like to think that I'm always filled with light, and charm, and wit, and stories, and clever turns of phrases galore.  And when those times come, it's as if little angels are whispering in my ear:  tickling my mind and making my fingers dance across the keys. 

But I've also come to experience times when it's not a little angel whispering in my ear, but a little devil.  Not a big scary, whip cracking, fire-breathing "Balrog" of a devil.  No.  Just a little imp.  Kind of looks like Sleepy or Dopey of "Seven Dwarves" fame.  And what he whispers doesn't tickle my mind.  Instead, he lulls me to sleep.  "Go rest.", he sighs.  "Writing's awfully hard work. You can always do it tomorrow."  "Besides," he yawns, "There's nothing to see here.  Let's go have some ice cream".

The funny thing is that as long as I'm only listening to the imp with half an ear, not really paying attention - he sounds convincing.  But when I manage to hear his weaselly voice, and give him my full attention, only then do I realize what a charlatan he is.

Because when I'm willing to really listen to his silly, somnambulistic spiel; willing to look into the emptiness and not turn away, I'm always offered a clear choice.

Do I want to stay asleep, or do I want to try something new and fresh?
Do I want to stay "safe and secure" in the harbor of my self, or do I want to take a risk?  Step out into the Sargasso Sea within - find myself becalmed for awhile. But then push ahead and be rewarded for the effort?
Do I just want to "think about stuff", or do I want to actually DO something?

And then I know the angel's back, whispering in my ear.  And I answer with a smile, just as one of my favorite explorers, Meriwether Lewis, did so often in his journals.

"We proceeded on."

And look what I stumbled on to...another "pearl"  There's always something new to learn, if I'm willing to look and listen.

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