Taking the idea from ‘The writer’s journey’ by Christopher Vogler, I suppose that if I consider the act of writing as a journey I could say that to me writing seems like an endless journey of self discovery.
Every time I put pen to a blank page of paper, or fingers over the computer keys, I start travelling. I travel through myself, travel through my understanding of that part of me that I want to explore, to discover and to release. It is my only and lonely travel: a personal and private journey to that precise world of things that preoccupies me, to that precise part of me that I just want to uncover and that is influenced by my cultural environment and by others. Whether writing poetry or prose, what I then basically do is put thoughts, feelings and emotions in order; organizing what concerns me, tracing maps to find my own path, my own answers to the reality that is calling to me (sometimes even shouting), affecting me. It is like I had heard the CALL OF WRITING’S ADVENTURE. Sometimes I have the urge to write and I jump onto the paper. Sometimes I take my time, I take some notes on my notebook and I’m a bit RELUCTANT to take that writing journey. I think about whether I’m ready for it, if what I have is a good or bad idea… So I just keep it in mind for some time (incubate it). But then, something happens that makes me decide it’s time to go for it: something, someone, or even just myself, will push me as though by a MENTOR. And then, I decide to take the journey and cross that FIRST THRESHOLD into that special private world of my writing. On my way through, I could find TESTS (difficulty to confront feelings and emotions, not knowing how exactly to express myself…), ALLIES (coherency, honesty, positive thinking…) and ENEMIES (fear, apathy, uncertainty, incoherency…), but I know I have to carry on: I’m already committed to that writing journey. I then approach THE IN(NER)MOST CAVE, where I need to confront the writing task and its emotional ‘pain’, as well as its relief, all the fears and doubts, all the questions and then search for answers, before facing THE ORDEAL. To me ‘The Ordeal’ of my writing would be the fear of not finishing the job, the journey, that piece of writing; not to achieve the REWARD of clarifying thoughts, emotions, making sense of myself and my writing, and finishing it successfully. And then, I have to take THE ROAD BACK to the Ordinary World, which is the one where I live my reality and communicate with others; where I rest, read, travel, stay with family and friends… and find inspiration and energy to prepare myself for the next writing trip, for the next journey. But, until I arrive in my ordinary world, on the road back, I have to reread, rethink and rewrite some parts of my writing journey so I’m satisfied with myself and the way I have answered the initial call and all the questions that emerged from it. I definitely have learnt something else about myself through the journey, I have gained insight, freedom, I’ve been released from that initial concern (RESURRECTION), and I am ready to offer my writing to others. I will then publish it and share the ELIXIR of that my journey with them.
I venture to say that any writer who is committed with their writing journey is a hero.
I also started this brief essay saying that to me this writing journey seems endless. And it seems like this because once I have finished the first draft, trying to release, using words to organize that part of my journey through life, other questions arise (it’s as though I’d received another call), and then another journey must begin. The end of that piece of writing could be just the beginning of another. And even then the same piece of writing can be rethought, redrafted, written and rewritten in what could be an endless task. To avoid this, I have to say to myself: ‘ok, leave it for now. You’ll take it up again another time’, or ‘well, this is it. It is finished. Don’t go over and over again. It’s time to give it to someone else and see if you can publish it’.
What I’ve called ‘an endless journey of self-discovery’ of my writing process implies the act of listening to myself in great depth. This listening is not so much in the first draft of any piece (where I write in a more fresh and cathartic way) as in the act of reading and rewriting it (where I want to understand and make more sense to myself and my writing). This second stage of reading and rewriting is when I pay more attention to words, punctuation, content, structure, form... And it is then that I really grow in the knowledge of myself, my surroundings, and other people.
In ‘Write Yourself’, Gillie Bolton describes how expressive and explorative writing is a process of deep listening and understanding to yourself, and then, as a result, to personal development, ‘You’re not listening to yourself as you write. (…) You listen to yourself after you write, rereading. (…) The process of gaining inside is three-staged: first the dash onto the page, then rereading to the self, then the sometimes emotional reading and sharing with a carefully chosen other (or others).’ (Bolton 2011, p.19)
Rewriting and listening to oneself are inseparable activities during the creative process of writing, and as a writer I am doing these two activities until I decide that that journey is finished. Some writers consider that it is finished once the piece (short story, novel, poem…) is published and given to the reader. I think so as well, though sometimes I come back to the theme of the piece and write another, continuing the journey but taking another direction, approaching the question or ‘initial call’ from another angle, to explore and try to discover something new that I left behind and that is calling me as well.
Vogler, C. (1996) The Writer’s Journey. London: Pan
Bolton, G. (2011) Write Yourself. Creative Writing and Personal Development. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers