The writer’s journey is paved with bumpy roads, sharp curves and a lot of dead-ends. If you write to live you are probably paying the rent. If you live to write, probably someone else is paying the rent. Having done both I believe that if you are doing what fulfills you, nature will support you and you will succeed. The true blessing, however, is when you are fulfilled simply by the act of doing it.
I once interviewed a Benedictine Monk at his abbey in Baltimore, Maryland. An amateur sculptor, he invited me to see his studio in a shed behind the main building. During our chilly walk through the bare March gardens, I asked him what was the goal of his monastic life; what did he hope to accomplish when he could serve so many suffering people by being out in the world. A handsome, soft-spoken middle-aged man with a happy face and an inner light, he replied, “It isn’t the goal. It’s the journey. My life’s journey is inward and no less difficult than yours.”
In our few hours together he gave me a great deal to contemplate-about journeys and goals and the vast differences between the two entities writers must deal with, information and wisdom.
For example, while information is the journalist’s lifeline, it is the journalist’s responsibility to get it right. With myriad means of gathering information today, getting the facts right should be relatively easy. Tell that to Dan Rather. Maybe if CBS hadn’t rushed to get the story, they would have gotten the story straight.
The fiction writer also has to get the facts straight. A story that takes place in seventeenth century Japan must taste, feel and smell like the period. The writer has to virtually live the experience while he or she is writing about it. The outward journey is the research; the inner journey is beyond verbalizing.
Visionary Joseph Campbell defined the archetype of the hero in The Hero With a Thousand Faces. George Lucas took from The Hero’s Journey and gave us Star Wars. All are inner and outer journeys.
If indeed life is a journey, the writer’s journey is fraught with its own unique obstacles. Writers are either deep in contemplation with their muse (writing), slaying the dragon (rewriting), searching for the Holy Grail (agent or publisher), confronting inner demons (rejections, ego), battling the dark side (scam artists). In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker has his Yoda and Obi-Wan for wisdom and courage.
In The Matrix, Neo has Morpheus and the Oracle. What do writers have? Hopefully, our intuition when we listen to it and our perception when we’re open-minded.
Writers consistently borrow from other writers, so pardon me if I quote Dr. Wayne Dyer. “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Actually he borrowed it from a monk who died a few thousand years ago. But never mind.
In my eagerness to get a manuscript published, instead of relying on my own insight, I rushed to judgment and almost engaged a less than honorable literary agent. The discovery got my back up. When I began receiving emails from other writers who had the same experience with the same shysters, I began to see the humor in it. My narrow perception of the incident gradually opened to a panorama.
It’s interesting how the larger picture tends to reveal how small and insignificant are the cheats and the deceitful. But stuff happens on everyone’s journey. Whether creatures from the imagination of a genius, or our own uncertainties on those slippery curves in the road, there will always be the dark side. We cannot know how near or far the goal. We do know that information without wisdom is dangerous. And it’s the journey that makes us wise.
My website is under reconstruction until 2010. Meanwhile, you can find me at http://newagejournal.com/2007/spirituality/the-eternal-search-for-who-am-i
You can also read two chapters of my novel, The Sword and the Chrysanthemum, Journey of the Heart at [http://www.samurai-archives.com/guestart.html]