The Other Side of Silence

Dear Reader,

Amy originally wrote this post for her blog, Elliott’s Provisions, in July of last year after our first writing retreat in California. At that time, a Trump presidency was still only a nightmare we hoped would never come true, and we in this group were still grappling with the struggles, desires, and responsibilities of being a writer. If you are struggling with how to make your writing, your art, meaningful in these violent times, we hope this will help.

In love and solidarity,
The Fixin’ to Write Contributors

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No artist is pleased… There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others. -Martha Graham

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I have crossed the fearsome river of wanting to be an artist and into definitely feeling like I am one. And I mean artist in very loose terms here. I am no Hemingway, no DaVinci. I think we can be artists in a lot of different ways. I write. I transform my thoughts into words on a page, and I have practiced it daily, intentionally for a year and a half.

A queer divine dissatisfaction. How perfect. I think sometimes this new beauty is divine. Something greater than me is at work. Maybe it is a connection to humanity I didn’t know I felt before. Maybe it is straight from the ether. I’ve talked about this with my friends, my fellow renegades, this THING we all strive for in our writing. It is the connection to others, the tiny sliver of an answer to the question of why we are here. Any art that moves us, whatever the medium, does so because it touches something within us. It reminds us of a time, a moment, a feeling. And we are drawn to it because it tugs at our core. And as artists, we hope to move people in that way, to strike a nerve and make a connection. But we are also constantly dissatisfied. It is never what we want, never good enough, often debilitatingly so. It can be crippling. This sounds so dramatic, but once the fire has been lit it is really hard to stop it and stop trying to make it better and better. That’s where the divine comes in. It becomes otherworldly.

Shit this is so dramatic and narcissistic. But I feel it. Something happened when we all went to Pescadero. A slow burn started, and it is growing into flames inside all of us. People in the group have decided to leave their jobs and find more fulfilling work. People have started submitting work to publishers and magazines and having pieces accepted. We have all decided to live way more intentionally, and to overlook the bullshit in favor of the things that make us fuller. It is all because we want to embrace the blessed unrest Martha Graham speaks of. It does make us more alive. The miracle happens when we don’t quit.

I post on this blog week after week. Because I said I would. I made a commitment to put myself out there every Friday no matter what. Some weeks I dial it in. I know I am writing a little bit of a dud. And obviously I am not that big of a deal and it doesn’t come to any great end if my post is boring. Some weeks, though, something hits me and I feel like I have touched upon something. I am writing all of this for me, at the end of the day. I am writing about what I think and feel and hope that people will recognize themselves in my words. But if they don’t, I still feel accomplished and queerly, divinely unsatisfied. And it is pretty amazing.

George Eliot wrote in Middlemarch, If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.

Die of that roar. That something could move us so deeply, the very noise of it could kill us, that is what art is. It strives; we strive to connect and to even barely touch upon the keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life. This quote destroys me, conjures up that quivery-lipped emotion every time I read it. It makes me understand what I do. It helps me when I think, “What the hell am I writing for? Why does anyone care what I think? What is any of this going to possibly change?” In the world right now, amid all of the killing and blood and hatred and fear, we still make art. We all still strive to do that which makes us more whole and connects us to one another. There is protest, speaking out against all of this, fighting for a cause, forming a physical line in the sand. But this is something else entirely. This is what we can do in the quiet moments when our minds and hearts ache from all we see and hear. We can try to embrace our own blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others. Because it helps.

photo of a field of dandilions with a quote from the novel Middlemarch in the center

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