HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 28, 2015 – 12:00am
A painter paints. A writer writes.
I always say this to students in my creativity class to make things simple. Sometimes it is that simple. And when it is, it’s wonderful.
But sometimes one can stare at the computer screen all day and not produce a single word. It can seem like there is nothing one can say. The well from which ideas usually emerge cannot be found.
Or maybe it seems like the well has dried up. That’s how I have been feeling lately.
Sometimes I like reading what I write. But sometimes, I do not wish to read what I have written because it was so hard to write it. It makes me tense just reliving the process.
People ask me what inspires me to write. My answer is, anything can inspire me if I am in the proper disposition. A person I meet, a sentence I hear, a dream, an affectionate memory, anger, scenery, etc. can inspire me.
But when none of these appear within the vicinity of my creative field, a deadline does it every time. There is nothing romantic about writing. It is a job that must be done, the product submitted at a certain time. Those imperatives often get me started and strangely enough, I finish and submit the article or the song on time.
I can compare writing to athletic training. You run and run and it feels great to be in top form. Sometimes, you run until everything hurts. But you still run. When you are lucky, you break some personal best record of sorts. And when the gods are smiling at you, you can break a world record.
But what you need to do for any of these things to happen is to run whether or not you feel like it, whether or not you are inspired. You run because, well, a runner runs. Whatever or however things turn out, at the end of the day, the result is the state of the art of wherever you are at that particular point.
You are always doing your best. No need to compare yourself with the numbers you had the day before. I once told a priest that I thought I was having a spiritual crisis. I told him how meaningless going to church was. I found the homilies so boring wherever I went and whoever delivered them, and how they seem to be mere repetitions of old themes I had been hearing since childhood.
He looked at me and broke into a smile. He said, “Of course. Did you expect the messages to change?” I thought about his answer. Indeed! The messages are the same! The messages are simple. At certain times in my life I was inspired by them. They rang true then.
Have I changed? Maybe the homilies are not the problem. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I am stuck or tired of hearing them in the same ritualistic form, or the way they are delivered. Maybe I should look beyond the words used, or the tone of the voice, or the heat inside the church and “just listen” without letting my prejudices get in the way.
I was once struck by this quote: “Have you lived 10,000 days? Or have you lived the same day 10,000 times?” Wow. What a big difference these two experiences were, I thought. One was all about newness, adventure, joy, growth, awareness while the other was about being condemned to the soul-killing drudgery of repetition.
In truth, there is no such thing as repetition. If your eyes are open, you will always see something new, or feel something different. The practice of self-awareness makes everything more alive, fascinating, and yes, even more blessed.
That’s why sometimes, more than art, writing is a spiritual practice. It is the practice of being committed to one’s craft, to writing one’s truths. It is a commitment to one’s readers. And it is being true to one’s stated profession and doing what a writer is supposed to do.
Can you imagine what would happen if a doctor refused to see his very sick patients simply because he did not feel like it? It is more important to be true to one’s being or calling than to be guided by what one is feeling at the moment. As we all know, feelings come and go. But one’s calling must unfold in the world regardless of how one may feel.
Yes, a writer should have a sabbatical now and then. That is understandable. Or drop out of writing altogether. We have the right to let go of things that have stopped giving us payback — monetary, psychological or spiritual. We are allowed to outgrow certain things and move on to newer things.
But while I consider myself a writer, my job is to write.
Whatever you are doing that gives you joy and feeds your passion, make sure you have the power to keep it sustainable. And only with self-awareness can you do that.