I write, often enough, for the writer, or for other writers. I know the difficulties of the situations we face, and so I wrote about ones I knew or perceived in others. There has to be a reason to get up in the morning, there has to be a way of negotiating the job you work and the night after it. There has to be a way of nourishing yourself for the long time that you write in the wilderness. You might write from young adulthood into middle age, writing on your own, not for a job of any sort, not as a journalist or an editor or a copywriter. Stubbornly, on your own. Slowly putting down what you have to say, as the spirit allows.
But there has to be a way of looking at it all, once you've piled up a modest body of works, that speaks of the vision, of why you did it, why you thought you simply should. There are real reasons to write, but one always has to find them and hold on to them when you feel lost and like it all might well be pointless.
For the sake of other writers--I'm sure they go through the same--one shares the observation that writing is a Christian act, an act of the Holy Spirit that fills people from time to time, maybe some of us more than others, but who has that much of a choice in the matter.
All Quiet on the Western Front, I would say, to help identify parameters, is a Christian work, and it's no wonder that the Nazis wanted to remove all traces of it. It's anti those wars that are fought for the sake of the Egos of a few who crave power and position rather than works of the soul. Chekhov, who understood the great garden variety of human suffering, I would take as a Christian writer too.
I mention such a viewpoint because that from whence working from the Holy Spirit the writer, to be aligned, must understand his work as coming from the Holy Spirit. He cannot be a house divided against himself. He cannot let the unclean spirits that might linger around each of us gain the upper hand, either through pessimism toward the work that is holy or other forms of misdirection, self laceration, mad shouting, craziness, intoxication. The writer's inner world must be in contact with the outer world, the everyday. If not he or she will be greatly discouraged and take to counterproductive behaviors, as is well enough known in the world of people who make art for, more or less, a living, people I do not envy, unless they find a proper channel.
And so, from time to time, rather than cringing at them and wishing little to do with them, I look upon this or any other collection of pieces gently, and understand them as an attempt to show the human truths that often suffer alone or out in wilderness or without communion or sharing. Not too wild a claim, I would hope. The fine example of the true writer, like a Dickinson, a Melville, like all of us on a good day is working sweetly from the depths of the Holy Spirit that comes and innocently and properly visits us. And that's why one shouldn't make a big commercial deal about it, claim that any work is great or 'life changing' or a particular triumph, or useful without keeping in mind the same guiding spirit and touch. Because they are all humble efforts which succeed only by being, quite by dumb luck and persistence and showing up when you can, in tune with a greater thing. And also, I suppose, they all can be greatly misread or misinterpreted and serve to increase unhealthy illusions, the cult of personality that is a great trap for any poor and unlucky writer who must have some fame. The writer must always issue the statement, that it's a matter merely of being in touch with what all souls are inherently in touch with if not blinded by beams and motes and thoughts of how riches might bring one closer to the kingdom of God's heaven. (Maybe it is a good thing that the Christian story comes with a great warning to be careful, reiterating "go and tell no one.")
By thinking that, then am I able to be encouraged enough to go do the things it seems I have to do. Then am I able to avoid the excesses with which one treats pains spiritual and physical, as if it were some form of natural homeopathic anti-inflammatory, a sleep aid, a calming root that aligned one's own dust as it should be with the earth and the heavens. If it puts your own failings into some form of perspective so that I don't continually repeat them nor dwell upon them to the point of debilitating shame, it's medicine I'll keep around.
Maybe that's how to avoid the sense that as a writer one has removed himself from the world, hasn't even gone down to the coffee shop to see his fellow struggling human beings out of a cowardly dislike of coffee, inane music, the shouts of the shop.
The world would have many ways of interpreting a book someone writes. (First the critics, like ants over the edits, wanting to make their own bites into the shape.) The world will have its tastes. Of my book, the reader could highlight all the faults, leave it at, satisfied. But the writer, inwardly at least, asks one to look for the beauty of a moment, for the possibility of a Christian moment of selflessness, love even, an egoless purity of creature that even we humans can pull off sometimes, all of which being hard to describe or put into worldly terms of motive and desire and what people take as sanity.
So might one allow himself a chuckle over a critical assessment, the Kirkus Indie Review that costs a writer upwards of $400, missing the point entirely, even explicitly proud of missing the point.
"Hold off, " the Holy Spirit says. "Don't look at the headlines of the world just yet. Don't get bogged down with worldly offers, the web, the emails. Write down what you have to say first, and then, go in peace."