Writing as w̷i̷t̴c̴h̷c̴r̸a̷f̷t̴
the art we make shows us where we belong
I’ve had this idea recently, not original to myself, but one I can’t shake, that the art we make can place how we belong in the world. Maybe we learn we don’t belong; perhaps it helps us endure. To describe or imagine the possibility of something new and wondrous is a source of intense joy for me, and what comes next always reveals the unexpected.
I always feel “the desire to name unnameable things.” I still feel a longing to express, touch, and know. Daily writing practice is something that I have to make sure to do actively. Otherwise, I end up mired in pessimism.
I often talk about “writing as craft,” “poems as spells,” and “the magical power of poetry,” but haven’t disclosed whether poetry is transforming us, or whether the poem is transforming the world around us.
I believe the answer is both.
Art is innately just a vessel for energy and intention. It’s a map through the darkness back into the consciousness and experience of the artist. That’s what I mean by poetry working as spells; I’m interested in art that’s a variety of mystical and spiritual experiences, and belief as a genre of literature. Faith that lies with the individual to navigate their own experience is what separates the artist from the Prophet, Priest, Influencer, or Life Coach.
I’m having a difficult time wrapping my heart around how authenticity and vulnerability are borderline-fashionable these days. I do not believe that compassion correlates to profit models. Christ didn’t tell the rich young ruler that if he talked to his board of advisors about adding some core-values, he’d get into heaven.
I wonder how much of marketed vulnerability translates to a fresh coat of paint on the titanic. It’s appeasing, and nice to see, but does it fix the real problems we suffer from, as individuals, and as a society?
I’ve fallen for this trope myself, and in my late twenties, I spent a lot of time broadcasting how “damaged” and then “fixed” I was for attention/validation. I wrongly equated vulnerability to being an exposed nerve. Still, we can only be as authentic as our emotional intelligence and experiences allow us to be. At the time - I thought that’s how it was supposed to be done.
That’s one of the beauties of getting older, I’ve gotten to find out what I was wrong about - and thank goodness for how wrong I was. I can give myself grace when I don’t have the answers today because I know they will come in their own time, as I now have experience with those revelations. Until the first answer came, every-one had evaded me, so I had crystalized all of the answers I had previously grasped for. Every scream in me could’ve been reduced to an unanswered/unanswerable question.
I can’t pinpoint the moment when I stopped showing off my wounds and scars for emotional coin, but it probably was after I had been in therapy for a few years. Over time, with work, treatment, and acceptance, the same dysfunction became monotonous, and I lost interest in defining myself by the hurt and gained interest in what I could learn from and do with it once I addressed and healed those wounds.
My life is full and beautiful, but it can also feel unlivable when terror from C-PTSD, shame, grief, or misanthropy grips and tries to bind me. Each of those things can strip me of joy, and even purpose. The bad days are rare, and they have less effect on my overall well-being as I get older. It’s a fraction (of a fraction) of a percent, but it feels disproportionately large at the moment. The hardest cognitive distortions to combat are “I’ve always felt this way,” “I’ll always feel this way,” and “I’ll never feel that again.” And which each new experience the less power those distortions have.
I’ve learned that it’s imperative to feel an emotion fully before processing it. Undoubtedly there were times when I felt like I was going crazy. But I needed to feel that way because it drove me to change. Other times I just needed to calm down and have a sandwich.
I don’t believe in selling anything as a solution. I believe in making sure people are equipped to find their own. I believe in asking questions. When I finish listening to a song or reach the end of a poem, the question that I’m asking is:
Do I believe it? And if I believe then, “what do I do with it?” I equate a lot of my life with (emotional) archaeology; every day, my job is: 1) to get up, survey, experience, and discover, or 2) to carry my shovel and start digging.
Sometimes I dig up something broken or worthless - sometimes, it’s just miles and miles of dirt and rock. I have to learn when a dig is pointless or trust that I’m going to find something. Discernment is the only X-ray I’ve got. I’ve also dug up lost cities, and it’s a god-breathed experience. It’s this act of creation and discovery at the same time. It’s what church should feel like. Finding something inside me that’s new, but I’ve also always had is rooted in the belief that “this [body] is not all that I am.”
We have to trust our inner voices more than what everyone else is telling/selling to us. I believe in planting ourselves like trees when everyone else is telling us to move. Now, more than ever, “I must lie down where all the ladders start/in the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.”