I’ve written about the role of disappointment in my own life and the way understanding this was the key to breaking free of anxiety.
In a recent conversation on writing I was brought to the point of considering how an attitude with or without disappointment as a background condition would affect whether one’s writing opened space for readers or remained closed.
There are many ways writing can be stuck. Closed writing, in the sense that it is all push with no room left for the reader to contribute to the conversation, is only one of them; but it can be a pernicious bind! We may tackle it by “trying harder!” We may become judgmental and overly critical of what we do. We may only think that by upping the volume, increasing the passion, let’s say, that this will “make” the reader feel welcome.
As with any willful action of this sort it is counterproductive. We look for sensitive readings and they come from readers who are aware. They are not fooled, even if we insist on remaining that way. There is no “making,” no forcing, no coercion of any kind that will provide the rapport we seek from readers! It can only be earned, it can only be earned through some sort of grace.
Grace is an interesting question. We think of it in terms of bargains, like the common understanding of Karma. We put it in the hands of some powerful outside force that we then attempt to lobby, as though such a “Prince” would stoop to accept our machinations!
Grace, whatever its actual cause – as if we could ever fathom such a thing! – has at its heart the sense of a gift, both unearned and un-repayable. It has some unbreakable connection with Love.
Grace in writing has many forms. Eloquence, the sense that the “right” words are falling to hand like treasure from the sky is one of them. Another is the connection one feels when readers respond to a work and it is clear they have been touched.
For some that might also include recognizing that readers have been touched and are traumatized or even silenced and paralyzed by what one has written. This path, conceivable beyond psychopathic horror for writers of psychopathic horror perhaps, but on the slope leading away from wellsprings of Love and Creativity, Compassion and Connection, for sure!
Let’s consider the other kind of connection, moving someone to recognize beauty. To feel connected. To enter into compassion. This is not open to overt manipulation. At least not overt manipulation alone. The space for the reader cannot be faked successfully or for long. As Lincoln said, “…some of the people some of the time….”
But as with anything else requiring grace to accomplish – even the easily caricatured golf putt! – we need to put our intention somewhere while we allow grace to do what it does. My guess is that letting go of disappointment might be a good place to start.
Disappointment. It’s hard to avoid! We are schooled in it early and long. It clogs our lives and what it blocks is access to compassion. Access to forgiveness. Access to anything that will make connection possible. To be disappointed is to be closed off. It is to expect nothing to bode well. It is to reject what actually occurs in favor of a preconception that nothing worthwhile can ever make up for the losses to date. It is a stance towards life from which we expect the “burden of proof” to always fall on circumstances and not on our narrow habits and rutted responses.
There is no air in a life of disappointment Without air, space is merely a vacuum. It’s hard to expect much company in those surroundings! And like a negative space-suit, we carry this vacuum around with us and draw the air out of the world around us. Is it any wonder that people would flee?
How do we write without disappointment? Certainly not by continuing to look for validation to overcome our disappointment! Disappointment has that quality which allows it to fill whatever space we allow for it. It cannot be bargained with. It cannot be contained. It can only be dropped.
We tend to feel that our bad habits own us. “If only!” We say when faced with a call to change them. But then, something actually touches us and a bad habit just falls away. We haven’t “done anything.” We have finally understood something! To under stand, to stand under something. It’s a visceral, bodily sense of position. What we understand has a force well beyond opinion! It is not the result of a “position” having “won” an “argument!” What is understood, we can say has also been a form of grace. We are changed. We are not “Going to change… someday….”
This grace then permeates one’s life. Permeates one’s writing, if we let it.
I practice Qi Gong. For me, its greatest lessons revolve around learning how to let go of grasping, and our reflexive jabs at control. By giving our body the room to do what it does – much better than it can manage while under our Ego’s dictatorial efforts to control it! – we learn to accept our bodies as partners with whatever other sense of self we might have and this insight has a tremendous affect on us! What had been difficult, even that which may have seemed impossible, becomes a matter of fact. We gain balance. We gain strength. We gain the space and the openness to allow life to enter into our attention and to gently replace that death-grip of our previous expectations. Expectations clouded in disappointment no less!
Perhaps a similar thing can affect our writing? Letting go of that grip of control, being led by expectations and always anticipating and never recognizing what is actually there because of this miasma of illusions!
Writing without those impediments is changed writing. We don’t need to “learn new techniques!” We simply find we can apply what we already have with perhaps a bit more grace?
Within the broader traditions in which Qi Gong has developed is a concept of sufficiency. We use our attention and intention to discover actions that are fitting and that balance the forces we encounter. This may seem straightforward enough! But since our perceptions are so tangled with our expectations and projections, it can be extremely difficult to avoid a snowballing of effort to “counter” a perceived “threat” while all that has been happening is within a closed loop between our expectations and our projections feeding us back only what we expected to find!
What’s lacking in such a case is an understanding of the value of vulnerability. Not as it is caricatured as the adoption of a pose of weakness, but as a realization that only through trusting our own strength can we be open enough to the possibility of underestimating a threat and being able to still recover. It’s also a sense that the greatest threat is from our loop of expectation and projection and that the danger of opening ourselves up through accepting a certain vulnerability is most likely overblown.
Writing while vulnerable! “I can fake that!”
If you found this thought pop into your head then return to the top and start over! If we rely only on those we can fool, we will be in an ever closing circle and surrounded by exactly those people we’d most want to avoid!
If you’re still here…. Then why don’t I trust that you can figure out how to do this for yourselves! Let’s all learn to write without disappointment!