We are either beginning or dead: Wendell Berry on the source of writing

Are you feeling blue because you haven’t “done-it-right enough,” “been published enough,” “written enough?” Next time you sit down to write, read this poem, and begin again!

To Hayden Carruth
by Wendell Berry 

Dear Hayden, when I read your book I was aching
in head, back, heart, and mind, and aching
with your aches added to my own, and yet for joy
I read on without stopping, made eager
by your true mastery, wit, sorrow, and joy,
each made true by the others. My reading done,
I swear I am feeling better. Here in Port Royal
I take off my hat to you up there in Munnsville
in vour great dignity of being necessary. I swear
it appears to me you’re one of the rare fellows
who may finally amount to something. What shall
I say? I greet you at the beginning of a great career?
No. I greet you at the beginning, for we are
either beginning or we are dead. And let us have
no careers, lest one day we be found dead in them.
I greet you at the beginning that you have made
authentically in your art, again and again.
“To Hayden Carruth” by Wendell Berry from New Collected Poems. © Counterpoint Press, 2012.

WOW!

“I greet you at the beginning, for we are
either beginning or we are dead. And let us have
no careers, lest one day we be found dead in them.
I greet you at the beginning that you have made
authentically in your art, again and again.”

Today, commit to making that authentic beginning, somehow, in your writing. Put down that sack of baggage and regrets and disappointments and fears — if only for 1 hour — that makes you wonder if you even are a writer. (Stop it! YOU ARE A WRITER!) And then write. Let this Monday be a good day!

That process is the authenticity we crave as writers. That is where we live most.

Carol Burbank is a writing and life coach, an editor, and a published writer. You can find out more at www.carolburbank.com, or email her.

 

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