Lily Iona MacKenzie's Blog for Writers & Readers


Writing: a Necessity

Writing a novel is an exercise in trust, sitting down each day at the computer and seeing where the words lead me,  believing that if I create an interesting character and circumstances, that’s enough. I constantly must let go of my expectations to impress or produce an important work. Otherwise, I’ll be giving weight to the negative old man from my recent dream who wanted the women to wear makeup, unable to see or appreciate their natural beauty. I must remember primary processes and get beneath all the shoulds to where something fresh and original lives.

Poetry is the one thing I write that I could do forever and not worry about publishing it. I have a very different relationship with poetry than I do with fiction, say, or non-fiction. The act itself is so satisfying that it doesn’t matter to me if the poem has an audience or not, though, of course, I do publish my poems. But they don’t have the urgency that the other genres do to be released into the external world. With poetry, I have nothing to prove.

I’m reminded of something I read in the Summer 1995 issue of Parabola magazine:

“…an inclination embodies or mirrors an unexplored capacity in us which, if allowed to flourish, might lead us further into wholeness. But very often the capacity itself is never left alone—the joy of singing is extended into a dream of being recorded, the transformative process of writing is extended into a need to be published. Ironically, the innate ability to recognize and put things together, no matter what form it takes, is often diverted into an insatiable need to be recognized. In this way, a passion for a particular way of being turns into a grand goal of becoming, as if life did not reside in who we are but only in the dream of what we might become. Here, in the same way that the loved one is seen as the keeper of the gift, the idealized ambition—becoming a rock star or a famous writer or a wealthy businessman—is seen as the keeper of the gift that will unleash true living.”

Writing for me is a necessity, a spiritual path, if you will. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum, unrelated to my life. It is my life, more fully so at times than what I do in the world—teaching, exploring in the visual arts, being a wife and mother, socializing with friends. Not that these activities aren’t fulfilling and terribly important. But I’m discovering just how interrelated all my various selves are. Writing is the way I come to know myself, the method of recovering and integrating the disparate parts of my psyche.


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