The artist is the first, and often harshest, judge of their work; we become viewers, participants in the journey, once our work goes into the public. Our material is a representation of us, and releasing work that is refined but contains the rawness of emotion is the goal of the artist. Being a harsh critic, as most creators are of their own work, is excellent until it hinders the promotion of art, and in order to overcome the obstacles that prevent longevity we have to overcome the fear of criticism. We cannot wait for people to justify the worthiness of our art; As Rainer Maria Rilke makes clear in Letters to a Young Poet, “Nothing is less relevant to our work than the judgements of other people.” Praise cannot become the source of our creativity; our love for craftsmanship and a aloofness to criticism are the qualities that takes us beyond the obstacles preventing creation.
“Your words do not yet belong to you”, Rilke says to the young poet trapped in a dilemma many artists, still searching for their voice, finds themselves, for we do not yet know the value, or beauty, of our voice; many of us are waiting to be justified in its loveliness through critics and readers. We often imitate the people that have inspired us, but our success is dependent on the discovery of our rhythm and faith in the places it can take us.
We point towards journals and magazines that picked up our stories, Instagram followers and likes on our posts, and contracts to validate our claim of being creatives; I’ve watched yoga instructors spend thousands on retreats in order to justify their identity. I understand this pressure to validate our dream; when people ask, “So what do you do?” And you tell them you are a writer; a yogi; a mystic; a healer the follow up question is “Oh, but what do you actually do?”, we are pressured into pointing towards journals and magazines, pictures of uncommon stretches, studios and retreats that shows we are living our claim. “We must avoid looking outwards at all cost”, says Rilke; our lives must become developed around the necessity to write. From the way we spend our mornings into our preparation for sleep our lives must be directed inwards; I believe, our spiritual apprenticeship begins with our devotion to living internally. Justifying our literary existence and spiritual identity through a devotion to craftsmanship.
Ernest Hemingway said, “Up in that room I decided that I would write one story about each thing that I knew about. I was trying to do this all the time I was writing, and it was good and severe discipline.” Rilke also believe we should write about our experiences while drawing close to nature; I believe he tells us to draw close to nature in order to listen and experience the patience nature has with its growth. This patience can become a guide to our own attempts at rushing the growing process. I gave my mother a journal in order to help her work through her emotions, and about a week later I asked, “Have you written anything in your journal?” She said, “No, I do not know what to write about.” I paused and responded, “Everything is worthy of being written about.” We, those that use writings as a means of discovery, must place ourselves onto the paper. Willing to excavate the memories of our childhood if we do not know where to begin, and tell the truth about our time being alive. Poetry and pose are created from this intimacy, and our journey towards mastery is dependent of our ability to remain sensible. We live in a culture overloaded with opinions, envy, critics, opportunist, and obstacles attempting to create a bulwark between us and our potential. Many artists find themselves creating material for the public rather than devoting themselves to work with the same qualities that inspired us to make the artists journey. “Go into yourself and explore the depths from which life flows”, says Rilke.
We must be willing to bear the responsibility that comes with being a writer, poet, healer and yogi; through walking towards mastery and building our life around art we enter the source of our life. Daily we move with purpose, and learn that every emotion, fluctuation, and thought is worthy of being captured onto the page. We must allow ourselves to become artists, and whether we have a publishing deal, blog, studio, made zero money from our craft, or can barely touch our toes must claim our identity. As Rilke reminds us, “We must allow our unfolding to happen.”
A beautiful collection of letters that is a great companion for every artist; each letter provides wisdom on the obstacles we all face, and provides insight into overcoming the inhibitors to our success. Letters to a young poet should be read by every artist; whether you are a healer, yogi, astrologist, reiki initiate, or poet this collection should be kept on your hip.