Writing On The Wall
I've just launched a new website! The design revolves around a series of quotations that inspire me everyday of my life. There is, of course, a story behind it....
Not long ago, my husband and I moved into a new house. The stairway, which leads to the study where I write, was covered with red floral wallpaper. It was not “me,” as they say, but I was unsure what else to do. One day it occurred to me that the stairs were a passageway to my writing life. I realized then the stairway itself could offer inspiration to me. I chose five quotations and had them stenciled in a progression up the walls.
The first is a well-known saying by novelist Virginia Woolf: “A woman must have a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” It was Woolf who first inspired me to create a real space in which to write, one that allowed me to take myself seriously. But over time, the room of one's own also came to stand for more than a literal space. It suggested my true work, the writing itself– a place of belonging within. Even now, all these years later, Woolf inspires me to inhabit more and more of that room, too.
The next quotation is from writer Cynthia Ozick: “Writing is an act of courage.” When I wrote The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, I sometimes sat at the computer thinking, I can't say this, struggling for the courage to reveal myself and my truth. Years later, after I was told by a writing teacher that my short story, The Secret Life of Bees didn't have the potential to become a novel, I put it away it for a long time before I found the courage to trust my own creative vision. The hardest thing about writing is the bravery required to do it.
Midway up the stairwell are words by poet Rainer Rilke: "Go into yourself and see how deep is the place from which your life flows.” Rilke was giving this advice to an aspiring poet, pointing him to the real source of the creative life. His words remind me that it essentially dwells outside the conscious intellect in a realm alive with images, emotional content, memory, universality and wisdom. In other words, in the raw genius of the soul.
Near the top of the stairs is a slightly paraphrased quotation by the monk and writer, Thomas Merton: “The imagination needs time to browse.” His words send me to the window seat in my study, where I can look out at the marsh and the tidal creek. I sit there and let my imagination roam. The creative mind loves nothing as much as the freedom to play.
The last quotation is from the French novelist Emile Zola: “If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, as an artist, will answer, I am here to live out loud.“ The words cause me to consider why I write. Why do I make myself audible and visible in the world? I began to write because my soul demanded it, but Zola's words remind me that I want my work to serve something larger than myself.
Each day as I climb the stairs to my desk, I read these quotations. So, when it came time to create a new design for my website, they came readily to mind as a source of inspiration worth sharing. All total, there are eleven quotations on the new site: the five quotes from the stairway, along with an extra one I tossed in as a surprise, and also five quotes I chose from my own books. I hope you have a chance to browse the new site, and when you do, that you'll look for them. You will find a different quotation at the bottom of each page.
May they inspire you, too.