“The moral duty of the free writer is to begin his work at home: to be a critic of his own community, his own country, his own government, his own culture. The more freedom the writer possesses the greater the moral obligation to play the role of the critic. If the writer is unwilling to fill this part then the writer should abandon pretense and find another line of work: become a repairman, a brain surgeon, a janitor, a cowboy, a nuclear physicist, a bus driver…
That’s all I ask of the author. To be a hero, appoint himself a moral leader, wanted or not. I believe words count, that writing matters, that poems , essays, novels – in the long run – make a difference. If they do not, then in the words of my exemplar Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, the writer’s work is of no more importance than the barking village dogs of the night. The hack writer, the temporizer, the toady, and the sycophant, the journalistic courtier (and what is a courtier but a male courtesan?), all of those in the word trade who simply go with the flow, who never oppose the rich and powerful, are no better in my view than Solzhenitsyn’s village dogs. The dogs bark; the caravan moves on.” Edward Abbey, The Writer’s Credo
Abbey’s words transported me back to the early 90s in Manhattan, when I first decided to focus my energies on writing spiritual fiction.
I was seeing a talk therapist then, in an attempt to work through my general confusion. Simultaneously I dived into the liberating truths of eastern philosophy, trained as a teacher of Hatha Yoga, tackled my addictions head-on, and learned to cull out spiritual buddies from run-of-the-mill company whose negative energies were bringing me down.
This phase was far from easy or pleasant and my frustration grew intense. One Saturday morning I cracked up while cleaning my apartment: turning off the vacuum cleaner, I collapsed onto my wooden floor and wept for all my broken dreams. Then, with all the force of a hammer, it struck me that I had to make some solid decisions in order to dissolve this angst.
Grabbing a notepad, I jotted down all the things I was good at. Ah, I thought, as Joseph Campbell’s advice to ‘follow your bliss’ flashed across my mind—the problem stemmed from dispersing my energies in too many directions. To find sweet water, one must dig deep in one place; Jack-of-all-trades but master-of-none is a hard place to be for one who craves depth.
Two things in my list jumped out at me: music and writing. When I played music, or poured my heart out in words, relative time seemed to vanish; I entered a zone where nothing mattered but the soaring of my soul.
But music as a career I quickly dismissed: I had neither the training nor the thick skin I felt was needed to make it in the west as a singer/guitarist. Which brought it down to one: Writing. And it was on that oddly magical morning that I decided to focus on expressing my thoughts via the written word.
Encouraged by a friend, I began to write short stories. Each dealt with an Indian woman who battled terrible odds in order to resolve a difficult situation. My protagonists were of all ages, castes, incomes and educational levels; all they had in common was their courage in taking on a variety of goons. I titled the collection SACRIFICE TO THE BLACK GODDESS (the Black Goddess is Kali, the deity known to fight evil) and managed to get a good literary agent. Publishers liked the collection but all of them were unanimous that I should first write a novel.
But what to write a novel about? The answer came years later when I stumbled onto the exciting philosophy of Tantra. Easy to see that folks in both east and west thought Tantra was all about free sex, but I was becoming convinced that Tantra was a highway to heaven for even the celibate. In fact, masters such as the Dalai Lama and other mystics practiced Tantra—minus a human mate.
And so Whip of the Wild God: A Novel of Tantra in Ancient India was born. I finally published it after twenty years, and after at least seven major rewrites! Only then did I turn my energies to a novel I’d been dreaming about since the millennium—Krishna’s Counsel, still a work-in-progress. And then will come my third, Copper Moon Over Pataliputra, which I hope to finish before my spirit leaves this planet.
Edward Abbey spoke of the external battle that so many writers take on so brilliantly. But my battle (both as a person and as a writer) concerns the inner struggle against darkness. The subject of all three of my sagas concerns the fusion of finite self (mini-me/ego) with Infinite Self. And in this way I feel my creative work is in harmony with Abbey’s advice to the sincere writer—to be true to oneself, no matter what.
Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva in the form of a sacred mountain, where the seeker of freedom is aided in the quest to be permanently free of desire and fear by the destruction of the ego!
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Wonderful post. How blessed to have found a way to express your deepest self and share with the world. I think people can write for any reason they wish, but I too enjoy writing what comes from the heart. ❤
Thank you Wallace Peach!
After seeing Michael Moore’s movie “Sicko”; about the American medical system, my mind was really inspired to go after the insurance companies; politicians; and even the A.M.A., for creating such a monster. However, my spiritual self prevents me from going there because it takes the mind into some negative, angry spaces. I prefer to focus on forgiveness, and letting go of worldly delusions, in order to pick myself up as well as those around me. Yes… there are things about this world that are unjust, but, bringing them to the attention of others by being critical simply gets us to buy into the illusion. God did not create an imperfect world. We did… but to find our true selves, we must see beyond to the peace and perfection that we are in truth.
Totally agree, Dave!!! Ramana Maharshi expressed the same advice in his own way – free ourselves from delusion first before attempting to correct what seems wrong to us. Love!
Spirit always does seem to have perfect timing. Currently I’m deep in the middle of a writing project and couldn’t have asked for more perfect inspiration. Love to you, Mira.
Good to hear that, Kathy. And lots of love right back!
Wow, you kept at it for twenty years to publish your first novel! Reminds of my late husband, it took him fifteen years to publish his first novel, but he persevered. Bless you strong survivor’s spirit, you are an inspiration to me. And the Edward Abbey quote just about rocked my world to the core today. I needed that kind of kick in the posterior to get me beyond being maudlin and full of self pity. Blog on, Mira, you have a gift! Peace.
I had no choice…I had to channel my energy into productive lines or else! Thanks so much for your kind words and support, Lily – lying fallow is a good idea too, and then we resurrect ourselves in glorious new ways. Much love!
I admire your perseverance! Please keeping blogging, I love your posts!
Thank you so much!!! As you well know, we writers/bloggers love genuine support.