A Survival Guide for Young Writers

Thus, O my best beloved, have the sages spoken of the Writer’s life: Revelling, glorying in the power bestowed upon him by the Most Gracious; despairing ever of unchaining it from the puerile censure of an uncomprehending world, the Writer is shaken like a leaf in the winds of December, clinging withered and frosted to the branch of life. ‘Never victorious yet never defeated’, the Writer is the ultimate paradox, the greatest hypocrite alive and the last truthful soul left on earth.

Ere thou canst thus to the soul vow thyself, thou must needs provide for the body, lest in thy hoary days thy love of thy art turn all to bitterness. Then shalt thou cry imprecations and rend thy manuscripts, and weep for thy ill-forsaken youth. Yet take thou heed and hold fast to hope, for with a trifling torment to thy soul thou mayst yet win ample sustenance for thy body.

This is thine Half-Plate of woe, O author. Expound, argue, declaim, in weighty and rolling periods, upon anything and everything under the sun, taking care always to bolster thy rantings with lengthy citations from works duly obscure and ponderous. Thus shalt thou become that feted parasite upon the public weal: a Researcher, an Academic, and a Scholar.

The essay, be it critical or literary, is a nobler pursuit, worthy of the dexterity of thy best faculties of reasoning and of imagination. Set forth naught but the leal and true in an essay. Write for the sake of the idea, not for the Chair it may perchance bring thee, as thou dost in thy Academics; do thou write simply and clearly, or else not at all.

In the writing of poesies, do thou give thy fancy free reign to alight upon and affix unto rhyme all vagrant ideas, expressions, humours and tempers in all of the languages thou dost know or would fain master. Yet neglect not the tradition of the language, nor yet the noble forms that grace it; yea, make these even the objects of thy study, that thou mayst with grace acquit thyself therein.

Into each story, be it vignette or conte or novel, pour a little of thy heart’s blood, a few silvery strands from the pensieve of thine own life; then plant them deep in the clay of language, and draw from it by the nurture of sun and wind and water the tender sapling-shoot that will grow in the garden of the reader’s imagination into a stout thrice-canopied tree. Let it be thine own voice that fashions it, thine own voice that lies hid in the seed that might once upon a time be.

The play treads between art and life so delicate a skein of spider-silk, that do thou be well-assured of erring neither upwards nor down ere thou dost undertake to tread it, lest the shendful fate of Icarus befall thee also! Write, then, with due regard to the moulded pageantry of the stage; but into this enchaunted life pour no wine but the water of life, drawn quick and throbbing from its very source.

To write, to create, thou shalt relinquish hope and despair, sense and madness alike; thou shalt walk forth into the beyond, barefoot upon the splinter-spined bridge. Thou shalt write. In sorrow and in joy, in sickness and in health, in peace and in war, thou shalt write.

Advertisements

Yes-Person

All the long merry days of thy life, child
Shalt evermore do as thou art bid;
Lay aside now these fancies wild,
Else shalt cringe when thou art chid!
For the yoke upon thy fluttering heart,
Comes not from the censure of the world;
Were this cool defiance thy natural part,
Wouldst tremble so as it unfurled?

Free, free as yon great bird am I
To soar towards that blue, blue sky
Do eaglets not come to their wings atrembling?
My heart too has courage; behold it assembling!
I am the purple thread ‘pon the world’s white robe
An the pale-dyeing traitor lives within me,
Does it not then more earnestly behove
Me to cast it forth and my true self be?

Thy true self? Faugh! Blasphemy! Arrant knavery!
Wast born to crawl humbly upon the earth
Clip thy false wings! Return! Now be
As beseems one who knows her meagre worth.
Child, all I now in seeming cruelty say
I say for the good of thee and thine;
Wouldst from the creed of all our kind stray,
Lay ‘pon us the pall of ruin, shame me and mine?

No! Mother, no! Rather my right hand would I give
To spare thee a moment’s pain while I yet live!
Yet whither shall the tempest within me turn?
An I yield not, ye hurt; an I yield, I burn!
The salt and the scum of the earth am I
Oh Mother! Hast other daughters, a dozen sons
Set me free to soar wild and high
My fate was not written in thy buttered buns!

Hold! Set thee free! Never! Oh, God forfend!
Set thee free to err in thy wilful way!
Stay! With all my power do I thee defend
To transgress my law for a single day!
Go then! Follow thy brazen will an ye list
I cast thee forth from my heart and my home –
Else return my darling daughter; but then, desist!
Forbid thy vagrant fancy evermore to roam!

Thou hast reason, Mother, the fault is mine
If I cannot be as other maidens are;
I doubt not, Mother, the true course is thine –
Let thy gentle love not suffer me to wander far!
All thy days of my life I yoke to thy law,
Yes-person of a long race of yes-persons am I,
I will obey thee evermore with trembling awe!
Yes, I will. Yes, I will. Yes, I will. Yes, I will. Yes, I –