Push it. Examine all things intensely and relentlessly. Probe and search each object in a piece of art. Do not leave it, do not course over it, as if it were understood, but instead follow it down until you see it in the mystery of its own specificity and strength. (p. 78)
Dillard’s exhortation resonated with me because the kind of searching examination she refers to is how I approach my own writing.
As an artist, I paint with words that, as often as not, find their way onto the page not through any design of my own, but as if some unknown hand has placed them there. My experience of feeling as though I am channeling something outside of myself when I write is not uncommon of artists in general. Avens (1984) in Heidegger, Hillman and Angels described the poet as not being “considered to be ‘creative,’ in the sense that he is thought to produce a world of his own imaginings, but to be a messenger in response to greater powers” (p.55). This might sound mystical, but in times of emotional crisis, we turn not to objective facts for consolation, but to the arts, to poetry, and to story, as a way to lessen our soul pain.
There is something about story, in particular, that comforts my soul, creates a unique bed of softness where I can lay my heavy heart. I am reminded of the importance to write creatively in order to deeply understand, and soak myself in the investigative process of the experience of grief, loss and transformation as I begin my dissertation. By loosening my intellectual grip on my experiences, and allowing the words to generate and form their own telling and retelling of my experience, I begin to have a deeper understanding of what it means to symbolically live and die.
Artwork by April Rhodes