I am the only person I know who goes to New York City to relax. It takes about a day for the push and pull of the city to become familiar to me again. It is the only place I’ve ever been where one can be exhausted by the energy required to remain silent. However long my stay, it is never long enough and when my wheels touchdown back home, I am ready to plan my next pilgrimage.
The thing New York and only New York does, is it reminds me that everything is art. Your life is art, it is your art. I don’t mean obtuse performance art flash mobs. What I mean to say is the act of living, of breathing in and out, thinking thoughts, saying words, all are creative acts. You are creating a life.
Art can be made out of nothing and everything. Art happens wherever mindfulness and love meet. Art is what you drink and how you eat and the pattern the sunlight makes through the blinds and street punks and kids drumming out beats on plastic buckets. Art is made for us and we are made for it.
I am a writer. My struggle to speak and to live that short, declarative sentence was as much a struggle for actual survival as for an artistic one. It is difficult to be born bent in one direction when all of life’s movement is in another.
New York is a stand-in for my artist-self. New York is not going to give up its riches easily. New York is going to make me work for it. New York makes everyone work for it. Want to live here? Better bring your thick skin. Want to make it here? Better want it more than the seven million other souls who want the same thing. Want to get to the Lower Eastside? Gonna have to take the crosstown bus. And it’s raining. And the last bus is in three minutes.
Writing is the easiest thing I have ever done. Writing is the most difficult thing I have ever done. Finding my purpose, losing it, finding it again, losing it again, finding it, denying it, negotiating with it and finally, acceptance, acquiescence, my purpose would not let me go. The words, The Word, would not let me forget.
The opening words of the Gospel of John move through me. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Words. Words creating, words being created. Before any other thing there were words. God speaks the universe into existence. All the words ever spoken, ever written, ever sung, all existed in that single moment, were sent out into an unnamed cosmos, clinging to matter, until they mattered. There are no new words, only words we do not know, words we have not read yet, words we have not written yet. There is no new thing under the sun, only things we have not seen.
I fought it for a long time. I didn’t trust it. I could not see a way, the way. I wanted to be loved and accepted and I could see neither sitting out there at the end of that long limb the words were telling me to step on to.
I feel now I must make up for lost time. I must write everything, all at once. Everything I could have been writing, all of these years, comes at me whenever I open even the tiniest window. I am flooded with words, ideas, emotions, snippets. Like the valley farmers and holler-dwellers, I watch the rising waterline, flooding over the old life, making way for the new. And then the panic sets in because the old ways are gone and there is nothing familiar for my eyes to rest on.
Writing should be getting easier. But it is not. I am startled to find the sun sinking into the horizon, another day has passed and the book is not finished. The book hardly feels begun, even though I can look at the word count and see it is so. All of that energy I used to fight against the words, now I can harness it for my words. I can use it for something. I can create, not copy. I can renew, not replicate.
The same dragons which followed me all my days, which have lived inside my head for as long as I can remember, they are all still there. New ones have joined them. They gather for cold beers and gossip almost daily. They are comfortable. I do not think any of them is leaving any time soon.
I have to remind myself of this often. Creating is a messy process. Making something out of nothing takes skill and time and talent. It should be a little hard. It should take a little something out of the creator. I should be a little scared. I’ve got skin in this game. I’m putting everything on the line. Don’t give up. Don’t ever, ever, ever give up.
What I have to do is fight, fight for what I know is true and good. When I am putting up a fucking fight for what I love, I should expect to get roughed up. There is a new battle every day, with every blank page. I am putting up a fight for my life, for my art, which is now the same thing, to live it, to create it. If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere.