Monday, May 7, 2012

the mark made

“...she took her hand and raised her brush. For a moment it stayed trembling in a painful but exciting ecstacy in the air. Where to begin?--that was the question at what point to make the first mark? One line placed on the canvas committed her to innumerable risks, to frequent and irrevocable decisions. All that in idea seemed simple became in practice immediately complex; as the waves shape themselves symmetrically from the cliff top, but to the swimmer among them are divided by steep gulfs, and foaming crests. Still the risk must run; the mark made.” 

~ Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

I can't tell you how many times I read To the Lighthouse and The Waves while writing Hive.  There are traces of each in the book, for sure.  Well, thinking of Lily B. this morning, the difficulty of making marks, the buds everywhere that look like the ends of paintbrushes, loaded with green paint.  

I think it's finally sinking in really, that Hive does in fact exist.  In whatever small way.  I've been thinking about how important this is to the creative flow.  That really it's meant to go this way, we are meant to be overflowing, frothing, streaming, pouring it on.  We are meant to be fecund and fertile:

"Oddly enough, I notice that fecundity is often a cause for reproach.  I've always found it extraordinary that fecundity or fertility is often something critics accuse certain people of."  

"Fecundity is the creative person's natural state.  The more pertinent question is that of what inhibits it.  Why does one get periods of broken productivity? What causes these interruptions?  Productivity, it has to be said, has no reason to be broken except through adverse, exterior circumstances.......But there are also private accidents, internal dramas, personal tragedies.  We could put this to all the writers of the twentieth century, and ask them what it was that made them able or unable, to write when they had the desire to.  The possibility of publication is a major factor. I realize that I'm quite sheltered when it comes to that, given that I have a generous publisher who publishes my work unconditionally.  That means that I don't have that suffocating influence on thought that says, "what's the point in writing when it won't be published?" I"m privileged.  My fictional texts are published regularly."  

~ Helene Cixous in White Ink

That publication is, of course, a factor in our creative flow, our fecundity.  V. Woolf had her Hogarth Press.  There was never a question of being published or not.  Of taking risks in her writing or not, of writing what she enjoyed or did not enjoy.

I'm not saying Hive is in the realm of The Waves.  Only that I am 46 years old, as of May 4, and I do not wish my productivity to be suffocated.  I could write a very long post on those things that have made me able to write and not able to write.  I want to write what I enjoy, what brings me joy.  I do not want to be constrained; I want to inhabit my natural state.

"And as usual I am bored by narrative."

~ Virginia Woolf, Diaries, March 28, 1929

I don't want to be tied to writing a boring narrative.  I want solitude and I want space.  I want to see and look and feel.

"I am not trying to tell a story."

~ Diaries, May 28, 1929

I think I need a new copy of Woolf's writer's diary, for the pages are falling out of my copy.


  1. Shawna, your words are so heartening, and remind me often how to return to the core of the impulse, the heart of what I want to do. I would love to read your long post on "those things that have made me able to write and not able to write." I'm so grateful for your courage and risks and artistic clarity, the precision of your particular interests--and I'm looking very much forward to HIVE.

  2. This is beautiful Shawna ~ I am so disappointed that I missed your book giveaway {I've been away from the computer}.

  3. Lisa - thanks! your comment is heartening. : ) and i just may have to write that post one of these days.

    Deb - thanks for dropping by. hope you're well. i might do another book giveaway in a month or so : )


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