Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Writing From the Heart

Whenever I travel, as I did this past month to China, I set a goal to get some writing done.  I write from my own experiences and travel provides an eye-opening window to thoughts and new perspective that I hope to capture before returning home. 

How can one not be moved to contemplate life's greater meaning when visiting the Hong Kong Museum of Art and seeing the work of Johnson Chow Su-sing as I did this past October?  Chow writes that many of the majestic landscapes, flowers and birds of the world inspired him to paint and understand the mysteries of nature. http://www.ccaf-vancouver.com/chinese_painting/Chow%20Su-Sing/Chow-Su-Sing_ch.htm

Writing is similar in that it allows us to explore the landscape of our lives.  We find in stories we want, need to write, a path to unraveling the mysteries; not just of our own lives, but maybe even the people who have most influenced us. 

Mural by Chow Su-sing
As I sat in the airport in Beijing waiting to come home to Philadelphia, I met a woman who asked me what I did.  I told her that I was a former journalist, but over the last several years had written a memoir and started a writing circle for women as a way for women to find their voice.  "I started writing something," she confided, "but it led to a place where I just couldn't go.  It was too unsettling, too frightening, so I stopped." 

Writing from the heart is often unsettling until a sufficient detachment sets in.  Like the artist who views the landscape and then attempts to render its majesty and mystery on canvas, a certain letting go of the ego, so to speak, is required.  This isn't so much about me, as about the broader view of something greater than myself, a voice whispers.  This, I believe, is the voice of the artist speaking.   

In Asia, Buddhist philosophy centers around the concept that "causes and effects come from the mind.  Everything changes when our mind changes."

Giant Buddha, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
How can we apply that to our writing?  How can we step back and take the longer, broader view, and create something that not only extinguishes pain, but brings joy and understanding, even ecstasy?  I leave it to you to decide, but I know I will be working on that in my own writing now and, hopefully, in the future.

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