Poet Mary Ruefle recently said the following:
Writing is a very, very unnatural act. Most people are out living—their bodies are, they’re walking and they’re talking and they’re working and playing and they’re interacting. Writing’s very unnatural because you are not living when you write. But at the same time, what a great paradox—because you’re all writers so you all know. You’re all going, Oh but no, no, I’m most alive when I write. So you are more living or less, we can’t use “more” or “less,” it’s just different. And this is the crux of any writer’s life. It is the essential paradox and question and torment and joy. Are you writing or living and what’s the difference and where’s the line and how do we divide those activities? …
I’ve spent my whole life thinking, Is this unnatural? Shouldn’t someone be parading outside my apartment with a cardboard placard saying, “Insanity’s taking place on the inside”? They really should, there’d be a point to it. And then, in other moods, I go, No, no, no, the insanity’s taking place out there. And I waffle back and forth. And this waffling back and forth, when you yourself experience it, it’s called life. And you are going to experience this waffling back and forth for the rest of your life. And whenever you do, don’t think you’re unnatural or broken or different. It’s life, and we’re living it, and that tension is life.
How do you handle that “unnatural” tension in your own life?
I know that almost daily I find myself in conversation with family or friends or my children, and my mind drifts to the characters living in my mind and the journeys that they are taking and that often feels more real to me than the conversation happening right in front of me. Sometimes I fight this tendency, other times I give in. I haven’t figured out how to manage this balance between my inner and outer lives. At times I’m not even sure if I need to find balance, or if I can just keep on going as I am without guilt or shame. What helps the most is knowing that there are communities of other people out there who feel the same way I do and live in this same strange writer-realm that I inhabit. Because there is nothing unnatural about community. In fact, it might be the most natural thing of all.
Share your own thoughts on the subject in the comments.
By Jocelyn Nash Carlin