Poet, by seeking to create with grace, do we inadvertently shoo it from our quill nibs back into the ink well?
The shelves crackle with the energy of curiosity, suffusing us with inquisitive warmth. Today's talk is perambulatory; the Poet speaking as we haunt the aisles of a Porto bookstore.
Overcome by petty concerns of power and unrequited love, I rarely grant him a chance to wax poetic about creativity's joys. I can see his face already crinkling with anticipatory delight.
Grace awaits within the reservoir of unexpressed ambitions and unrealized dreams.
Transcendent art springs forth from the ether of the unknown and unknowable. You can't create something worthwhile before emptying yourself. Full of excess, you're deaf to the steady beating of inspiration's rhythm. So give yourself over to the void. The angelic Muse will fill your vacuum with mellifluous melodies and saccharine sonnets.
How do we give ourselves over? What should we do first?
To develop our flair, our je ne sais quoi, which we will then explore on our pages. Read to bookmark a neat turn of phrase, a beautiful paragraph of prose. To enjoy a passage of delightful dialogue. Think now of days gone by.
The endless summer afternoons spent in the sunroom with a good comic or three. Those cozy winter nights propped up under the covers with a flashlight.
The long autumn car rides with a novel in your hand and the window to your side. Those spring picnics ensconced amongst the wild-flowers armed with a collection of poetry.
You write to recreate that magic. To entrust the Muse's whisperings to the care of someone you’ll never meet. To set your prose into their soul for safekeeping long after you've passed. It's your sacred duty, as it was of the millions of writers who've preceded you.
The Poet pauses with a small gasp of delight as a bright yellow book spine catches his eye.
It's David Lagercrantz’s “The Girl in the Spider’s Web”, the fourth book in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series. After Larsson’s unexpected death, the Poet wept to think Lisbeth Salander's adventures had ended forever.
I clear my throat and steer the conversation back to my original line of questioning. I must strike before his mind is completely consumed with the frigid pleasures of Scandinavian crime novels.
You were careful to use the word sacred and earlier, you called the Muse angelic. Should we pray to her? Is she who the poets worship? Or is there another deity I must pray to for success?
A gaggle of soft chuckles breaks out somewhere behind us. A tour guide has told his group an amusing anecdote about J.K. Rowling and the bookstore's giant staircase.
The Poet’s ears perk up at the mention of her name. He clearly wants to retell the story of how he sat across from her on that fateful train to London. That they were ignoring each other with utmost politeness when the idea for Harry Potter fell from the heavens and electrified JK.
To head off the much-told tale, I grace him with the mother of all eye rolls and an audible yawn.
Look, divinity is the creative expression of the Universe. It's our nature to create, to float on in the beautiful flow of life. When you start writing, there's a chasm between your ability and that of the authors you wish to emulate. So you devour books on how to write. Books on habits, time management, and mindfulness.
Procrastination masquerades as self-improvement. You brick yourself into labyrinthine dead-ends of inertia. Shake yourself free! Loot and pillage the prose of better writers until you arrive at a style that is your own. But you must always, always, always, write.
He breaks off to examine a collection of Kahlil Gibran's work translated into Portuguese.
I rebuff his suggestion to add it to my bag by pointing out he already has the collection in French, Arabic, and English.
Harrumphing with indignation, he reluctantly puts it back.
What if my writing is dogshit and contrived? Or even worse than that, boring and utterly forgettable?
Christ, stop attaching qualitative conditions to your work. Just handle the input and let the Universe worry about the output’s quality, alright?
Write to explore your soul. A tempest rages within you that cannot ever be fully tamed. But when you write, the shivers and the aches subside so you may slip into sweet dreams of nothingness. Writing expunges your fears and insecurities by exorcising them on the page. Writing purges us of rudderless, existential dread for the signpost to our purpose is prose.
Prose suffuses us with the ambrosia of compassion. Write for the soul as lost as you once were. The one who drowns out the world by burying their face in books. Reach out and touch this soul. It is yours.
We pass a small table with James Joyce’s “A Portrait Of An Artist As A Young Man” conspicuously strewn upon it.
The Poet double-takes with cartoon exaggeration.
Once upon a time, a good friend recommended I read “Dubliners”. Regretfully, I couldn’t yet appreciate Joyce’s brilliant mimetic style. I dismissed it as a ‘bunch of busy prose’. With a sheepish grin, I tuck the book into my bag.
Does that mean I’m writing for the benefit of the hive mind? From me to me, as another brother from another mother?
Yeah. Properly expressed, a single moment can spark the spiritual transformation of a stranger. If a passage, a line, a word of yours can spark life in the heart of another, you've given them the most beautiful gift of all. Awareness.
Writing helps us discover the vastness of our potential. To appreciate the miraculous wonder of our very existence. It's a spiritual contract in which we pay back our past gifts and blessings. We may never be Proust, Nabokov, Burgess, Kerouac. But we all have something to pass on.
If nobody but yourself reads your writing, smile. For it's an act of love to invest the time in yourself to read and write.
Our third lap of the store completed, we make our way to the till.
From nowhere, the Poet produces Euros so fresh it was as if he’d reached into an inter-dimensional seam to pull the notes straight off the printing press.
He slides them across the varnished pine counter. The teenage cashier’s doomed-and-cool demeanor struggles to remain unimpressed by the legerdemain.
We leave and roam the streets for some time before I break the shared silence.
What if I hesitate to write because I know I’ve nothing to say?
Here's a little secret, writing reveals to us our thoughts. Our most fervent hopes, what we miss, who we love. When you sense that hollowness within your heart, it isn't a cause for concern but a celebration. In that vacuum, the germs of your next creation are multiplying in ways unseen.
You cannot go on writing endlessly, that'll soon devolve into madness and fevered mania. Allow those seemingly unproductive periods of rest to restore your vitality. You'll discover the awesome beauty of life. You aren’t the automaton you feared. You are a vibrant, fantastic being.
Writing is irrigation for the soul. It is renewal and rebirth. Writing propagates the seeds of plenty and pleasure.
You don’t know what'll sprout first but you know that you're thriving. Once stilted prose now pours from your pen in an explosion of grace. You may wish to keep it private, or you may itch to share your soul with the world.
The Poet stops walking to haggle good-naturedly with a vendor selling warm bifanas and cold bottles of Superbock.
I notice a bedraggled man lingering a few feet away in the rapidly thinning shade. It’s clear he hasn’t had a decent meal in quite a few days.
He approaches us with trepidation and introduces himself as Paul, 53, and recently arrived from the Canary Islands. He’d hoped to reconnect with his estranged daughter but had only yet met the callous hand of poverty.
The Poet buys Paul some sandwiches and a few beers before surreptitiously slipping a wad of Euros into Paul’s pocket as they hug goodbye.
Why did you do that?
Help out a man in need?
I mean, why did you thank him with such sincerity as we left? Aren’t you the one who needs thanking?
Not at all. When someone opens their heart to you to ask for assistance, that is a gift from the Universe. I thanked Paul for allowing me to help him. For a moment, I detached from my psycho-drama and focused on lessening his pain with love. Through his authenticity, we served as vessels for grace.
That makes sense. Before we ate, you spoke of itching to share your soul with the world. Doesn’t sharing my soul with the world contain the ulterior desire to seek power, fame, and glory? To lord my heightened ability over theirs?
To share doesn't mean to conquer. Sharing means giving without reservation. Whatever bliss plays in your heart, give the world to enjoy. The songs of the soul belong not to one man but to the entirety of humanity.
Pry the music of eternity loose from the cobwebs of disuse. Discover what mysteries lie underneath the hum of the ego’s autopilot. What grandeur has your ignorance been obscuring? What healing has the seclusion of your trauma prevented by refusing to process it?
It is your life, your heart, your incarnation.
Through writing, you will find you are infinite.