Lily Iona MacKenzie's Blog for Writers & Readers


Writing To Know Myself

Working on my current novel is an exercise in trust. I must just write and see where each word leads me, believing that if I create an interesting character, she’ll end up in interesting situations. That means I must let go of any expectations to impress or create an important work. Otherwise, I’ll be giving weight to the negative old man from my recent dream that wanted the women to be made up, unable to see or appreciate their natural beauty. I also must remember primary processes—to 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 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 get out in the world; I don’t feel I need to prove anything in poetry.

I’m reminded of something I read in an 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 kind of spiritual path. 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, being a wife and mother, interacting 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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