Friday, January 7, 2011

A Writer's Thought for the New Year

[I will be splicing this together, so where you see an ellipses, it's where there is original text missing.]

From Letters to a Young Poet
Rainer Maria Rilke


February 17, 1903

You ask whether your verses are good...You compare them with other[s], and you are disturbed when certain editors reject your efforts...I beg you to give up all that. You are looking outward, and that above all you should not do now. Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. There is only one single way.

Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart; acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all--ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple "I must," then build your life according to this necessity; your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it.

 Then draw near to Nature. Then try, like some first human  being, to say what you see and experience and love and lose...Avoid at first those forms that are too facile and commonplace: they are the most difficult, for it takes a great, fully matured power to give something of your own where good and even excellent traditions come to mind in quantity.

Therefore save yourself from these general themes and seek those which your own everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, passing thoughts and the belief in some sort of beauty--describe all these with loving, quiet, humble sincerity, and use, to express yourself, the things in your environment, the images from your dreams, and the objects of your memory...

Try to raise the submerged sensations of that ample past; your personality will grow more firm, your solitude will widen and will become a dusky dwelling past which the noise of others goes by far away.

And if out of this turning inward, out of this absorption into your own world verses come, then it will not occur to you to ask anyone whether they are good...For you will see in them your fond natural possession, a fragment and a voice of your life...

I know no advice but this: to go into yourself and test the deeps in which your life takes rise...

Perhaps it will turn out that you are called to be an artist. Then take that destiny upon yourself and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what recompense might come from outside...

...Keep growing quietly and seriously throughout your whole development; you cannot disturb it more rudely than by looking outward and expecting from outside replies to questions that only your inmost feeling in your most hushed hour can perhaps answer...


15 comments:

Simon C. Larter said...

That...is awesome. Thanks for sharing, darlin'.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Gee, why can't I get rejection letters like this. ;)

Christine Danek said...

Thanks for this. You know what to post at the right time. Thanks. :)

Liza said...

Perfect. Thank you!

Linda G. said...

Wow. It's all about trusting yourself, isn't it?

Thanks for posting this. :)

Old Kitty said...

Oh I do like this letter! thanks for sharing! Take care
x

Tara said...

Awesome post, Summer! Cracking up at at Stina...

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

Stina - HAH!

This is an awesome post!

Meredith said...

Love it. Absolutely love it. I may have to frame this and keep it on my wall to remind me. Thanks, Summer!

Lola Sharp said...

Stina...he he! ;)

I've read these letters before, but they're still lovely. :)


(Guess what? It's snowing)

Jayne said...

Oh this is lovely - especially the line 'then build your life according to this necessity' and the part you have underlined. What a fab letter. :)

Crystal Cook said...

I loved it. :) Thanks Summer.

The Golden Eagle said...

Thank you for this post! :)

The Words Crafter said...

This. Was. Awesome. Thanks!

Marjorie said...

So very inspiring. Thank you for posting this.