Marguerite Duras on Writing Through Solitude

Writing, like any other art or discipline, takes daily practice and dedication to learning about the craft from those who have come before you. In learning, I like to teach, so each week I will take a piece of advice from the greats—both living and dead, famous and not—apply their lessons to my own work and share my thoughts and progress with you.

This week’s inspiration comes from the French writer and film director Marguerite Duras.

“Finding yourself in a hole, at the bottom of a hole, in almost total solitude, and discovering that only writing can save you.”

— Marguerite Duras, Writing

Solitude is where I first found my love of writing nearly 20 years ago.

I was a teenager, and like most, I felt misunderstood and completely alone. My home life had always been harsh and chaotic. The adults in my life were not equipped to help me make sense of all the ways I was changing or of who I was becoming. My parents had been only teenagers with no proper adult role models or direction themselves when I came into this world. My sibling couldn’t help, they are all younger than me and I never had many friends either since we moved around so much.

I had no way of knowing if anything I thought or felt was normal and no knowledge of how to navigate from child to adult without making mistakes that would follow me for the rest of my life. I had no way of channeling my emotions and energy. I was alone.

But there was light at the end of the tunnel. Eventually, I would find a kind of companionship and a place to express myself and work through my thoughts and feelings, a place of validation, a place I could trust. I found a journal.

I remember that first one. I was around 16 or 17 years old, and I am almost positive I bought it at Barnes and Nobel, my favorite hang out when I didn’t feel like traveling all the way downtown to be at the library. It was double-sided, one had an illustration of the sun on it, and the other had the moon. I filled it quickly, sitting down to write multiple times a day about everything from my frustrations at my first jobs, my first crushes and questions over my sexuality, and soon after, my first real love.

As I got older, and sometimes happier, I began to ask bigger question of myself and of no one at all. I wanted to know why were people the way they were and why the went on living the way they did even when they wanted so much more. I wanted to know why people hurt each other so much and spent so much time doing nothing and pretending it all was of the utmost importance. I explored my thoughts and observations on religion and relationships, my fears, and my hopes, and dared to confess my sins and proudly state who I was. It was where I made no apologies and was never asked to.

My journal was my first real friend, and I loved and felt loved back by it as if it were a person. Those notebooks brought me out of many holes and back into the light. Those notebooks showed me the power and connection that comes from writing even if you are only writing for you, especially when you are writing just for you.

 

I still write in a journal every day, when I remember, but like any relationship that lasts there are times when I take it for granted. I forget how much just writing about my day and my feelings for me has helped. I get depressed and discouraged and forget about the one thing that has helped get me through those bouts every time. I have to try harder to keep the relationship going. I have to make a conscious effort to work at it every day.

There are many benefits to journaling, healing is only one. Austin Kleon recently wrote about a journal being a place to say things you shouldn’t say out loud, and he’s previously written about a journal being a good place to have bad ideas. I also use my journal to write my intentions for the day, a place to write encouraging notes to myself, and to keep track of good things that happen in my life to keep me from focusing too much on the bad.

In fact, I carry more than one notebook with me at all times. I carry one I use as a planner and a place to jot random thoughts, to do lists, or keep track of people, places, and things I’d like to investigate further. I have another to take more organized notes on books I read, documentaries find, and even educational YouTube videos I watch.

I use pen and paper to brainstorm, to connect ideas, and to work through emotions. There is no app or piece of technology that can give you that feeling of turning the inner workings of your mind and heart into something physical and tangible. There is no person and no social media platform that will be so open to you and so forgiving of your needs and confessions. Journaling is not something only for the angsty teen, it is for anyone in need of a place to unload their stress and all of the information we are bombarded with every day. It’s a place to make sense of yourself and this world.

So, when you find yourself stuck or feeling alone remember that a sturdy notebook and a good pen will get out of any hole if you trust it enough to lead the way and that writing can save you from much more than solitude too if you trust yourself enough to find the way.

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820800Duras was born Marguerite Donnadieu on April 4, 1914, at Gia-Dinh, near Saigon, French Indochina (now Vietnam), after her parents responded to a campaign by the French government encouraging people to work in the colony.

Marguerite’s father fell ill soon after their arrival and returned to France, where he died. After his death, her mother, a teacher, remained in Indochina with her three children. The family lived in relative poverty after a bad investment in an isolated property and area of farmland in Cambodia. The difficult life that the family experienced during this period was highly influential on Marguerite’s later work.

At 17, Marguerite went to France, her parents’ native country, where she began studying for a degree in mathematics. This she soon abandoned to concentrate on political sciences, and then law. After completing her studies, she became an active member of the PCF (the French Communist Party).

In 1943 she changed her surname to “Duras” for Duras, the name of a village in the Lot-et-Garonne département, where her father’s house was located.

She is the author of a great many novels, plays, films, interviews and short narratives, including her best-selling, apparently autobiographical work L’Amant, translated into English as The Lover, which describes her youthful affair with a Chinese man.This text won the Goncourt prize in 1984. The story of her adolescence also appears in three other forms: The Sea Wall, Eden Cinema, and The North China Lover. A film version of The Lover, produced by Claude Berri, was released to great success in 1992.

Other major works include Moderato Cantabile, also made into a film of the same name, Le Ravissement de Lol V. Stein, and her film India Song. She was also the screenwriter of the 1959 French film Hiroshima mon amour, which was directed by Alain Resnais.

Duras’s early novels were fairly conventional in form (their ‘romanticism’ was criticized by fellow writer Raymond Queneau); however, with Moderato Cantabile she became more experimental, paring down her texts to give ever-increasing importance to what was not said. She was associated with the Nouveau Roman French literary movement, although did not definitively belong to any group. Her films are also experimental in form, most eschewing synch sound, using voice over to allude to, rather than tell, a story over images whose relation to what is said may be more-or-less tangential.

In 1939 she married the writer Robert Antelme. During World War II, from 1942 to 1944, Duras worked for the Vichy government in an office that allocated paper quotas to publishers (in the process operating a de facto book censorship system), but she was also a member of the French Resistance as a part of a small group that also included François Mitterrand, who later became President of France and remained a life-long friend of Duras.

During the war, Antelme was deported to Buchenwald in 1944 for his involvement in the Resistance, and barely survived the experience (weighing on his release, according to Duras, just 38 kg). She nursed him back to health, but they divorced once he recovered his health.

Marguerite’s adult life was somewhat difficult, despite her success as a writer, and she was known for her periods of alcoholism. She died in Paris, aged 82 from throat cancer and is interred in the Cimetière du Montparnasse.

Her tomb is marked simply ‘MD’.

duras_hole-sq

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Biographical information via Goodreads and Wikipedia

Featured image via Unsplash

Blogging A to Z Theme Reveal // The World Really is an Awful Place

Hey, hi, hello! Here I am, late to the big Blogging from A to Z Challenge theme reveal, as usual, but better late than never, right?

If you’ve never heard of it, the challenge takes place yearly in the month of April. Bloggers pledge to do their best to write and publish 26 blog posts, one for each letter of the alphabet, on a schedule. Most choose themes, not all, but I hear it makes it easier.

This will be my third year of participation and you’d think by now I would have figured out the ropes and be well ahead of the curve, but you would be wrong. I’m the kind of person that can’t muster up enough enthusiasm or inspiration to complete a task unless there are looming deadlines and real consequences. I’m working on that.

To be honest it isn’t just my awful work ethic. It’s been a rough year so far and I haven’t had as much time to plan for this thing as I have in recent years but I still hope to rock this thing!

My first year’s theme was astronomy and I failed miserably. My second was fiction. I was able to finish but the writing was kind of crap and I beg you not to look.

I thought about doing fiction again, but I’ve just about given up on that kind of writing, publicly anyway. It doesn’t come easy to me the way that essay/memoir does. I thought about poetry but poetry and I are just starting to get along and I don’t want to force the relationship and risk pushing her away, you know?

So, instead, I looked to what has been on my mind lately. What is it that I can’t let go of? What do I feel the need to spend and whole month talking about?

“Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.”

― Albert Schweitzer

Since this past year’s election, all I can see are the ways the world seems to be coming apart at the seams around me. Not just because of that man living in the White House. No, the world was falling apart long before he came into the picture, but he made me more aware of it. His actions have forced me to take notice and face my false sense of safety.

I watch the news nearly constantly now and I think a lot about the privilege I have. I don’t fear bombs. I can find food easily. I have a home and work and money enough that I hardly worry at all, but I haven’t been very good at doing my part to help those who have so much less.  I haven’t even worked very hard to stay informed or raise awareness.

In my defense, I have been a bit overwhelmed but even that is a privilege. So many others don’t have the option of turning away when it all gets to be too much. It’s too easy for me to look away whenever I want to. It’s to easy for all of us to hide inside our homes and go one believing that the fire will never touch us but it will. I promise it will unless we take notice. Now.

The world is full of suffering and bad scary things and I’m not sure what to do now, yet, but it feels right to start by using my platform here for research and awareness. I carry a fair amount of guilt for not doing enough, then or now, to help.

So, my theme this year is the awful world around us.

That’s right, I’m going to write 26 posts, one for each letter of the alphabet all about something in the world that is going wrong but that no one seems to be willing to look at, care about, or fix. Everything from the arctic ice melting, to diseases on the rise, to famine, and war, and much, much more.

I know it’s a strange one. It’s not fun and flashy but it’s real and it’s important. I hope that I can teach you something or point you in the direction of a cause you can care about. I hope we all start thinking more and more about what is happening out there and what our part will be in fixing some of this shit.

April is going to be a real blogging dumpster fire, and kind of a downer, and I encourage you to come along for the ride.

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If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or buy me a cup of coffee perhaps?

If you want more information on the challenge, head over to A-to-ZChallenge.com and if you are participating leave a note in the comments below and let me know where to find you :)

Featured image via Unsplash

The Week’s End // A Roundup of Important Reads

Hello friends and welcome to the weekend. I’m a little late, but if you’re still looking for some interesting reads to check out while you relax, look no further, I got you covered. Here are the things I found important, inspiring, and interesting enough to share this week:

Day without a woman
Day Without a Woman

Support diverse stories.

Because diversity isn’t easy.

Is America great again yet?

Trumpcare

You may want to marry her husband.

In conversation

Biology > Ideology

Extreme vetting is already a thing

It’s not a fucking debate!

“In moonlight, black boys look blue”

Life sucks

Daylight savings is stupid.

Super cute printable self-care checklist :)  // @Aloebud

What do you think? Have you read, watched, or written an interesting thing this week? Has something on the internet made you feel strongly? If so, drop a link in the comments, we’d love to check it out :)

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This list was originally sent out along with this morning’s newsletter: The Silence in our Stories + some of my own existential musings. Check it out and subscribe! :)

Featured image via Unsplash

Progress Not Perfection, 2017

I thought I would skip this whole New year’s Resolution thing. I thought I would just keep going as I have been going and hope that December 31st, 2017 would find me better off than The year before. I thought I was wise. There is no “new year, new me” after all. I am smarter than that, I am better than that…or maybe I am just afraid.

This past year was a hard one. There was so much death and disappointment. There was so much I thought I was sure of, but I learned in the end that we are all living on much shakier and shiftier ground than we knew. I finally learned what I thought I knew,  that the world is big and scary and indifferent. So, I thought, why eve try?

But of course we should try, we should always, always try. I wouldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t at least consider what the new year could bring if I tried hard enough. Progress, not perfection is my mantra but progress cannot happen without a willingness to examine where you are, and an occasional course correction and I suppose that is what New Year’s Eve is all about.

So, here it is, my dreams and goals for 2017, a year I hope will have more good and less bad than 2016.

Yoga and less sugar. I hate physical activity, and I hate thinking about what I eat, but I am getting older now, and things have got to change. I’m not going promise a whole new lifestyle, but I promise to start I promise to try out a Yoga habit and to be more aware of the amount of sugar I am consuming.

 

30 books, for real this time. I failed my reading goal this year, but I don’t care, I read way more than I did in 2015, so I am happy. This year I am going to have a reading plan, a list of specific books to read so that I don’t waste any time.

A new direction in writing. This year I am going to be very busy. I am going to be working more hours at work, and I am going to spend more time writing. I want to put together a collection of poetry. I want to work on this novel and possibly start on a sequel for next year’s NaNoWriMo. I want to write more on science, philosophy, and current events too. I hope to do everything I can to start getting paid for these words too.

Snail mail! I have always wanted a pen pal, and I think 2017 is as good a year as any to get one. I love snail mail and paper products, and I’d love to have a reason to start making things and sending them out to someone. I need a reason to experiment I suppose.

Weekend trips and a real vacation? I want to see new places, eat new foods, and breathe new air. I want to stimulate my mind and make some memories. I want to get out of this town and see the ways that other people live. I want to slow time and see the world.

I will never be a real artist. I had to choose between language and art and writing was something I could never let go of no matter how much art pulled. So, art will be regulated to nothing but a silly thing I do when the words don’t come so easily. I look forward to sharing my doodles with you.

Do scary things! There are two things hat give me terrible anxiety, and they are two things I need to be able to do if I want to start changing my life in real and meaningful ways. I need to meet new people, and I need to get over my fear of driving. Every day next year I will do one scary thing. I will tweet someone I admire, I will share ugly drawings, I will ask for help, I will drive to the store, and I will submit work wherever I can. I will do the thing!

I know that even though a new year starts tomorrow that doesn’t mean I am instantly a new me. I know that change takes time and hard work. I know that I need dedication and motivation. I know I have to be flexible and let myself fail a few times too.

Tomorrow I will still be me, but I will try to be a better me. Maybe I will make it and maybe I won’t but I will treat January 2nd the same way, and January 3rd, 4th, 5th, and so one all the way to December 31st, 2017. A new year is a new chance, and so is every day of that.

I hope we all make progress. I hope we all find what we are looking for, learn to love ourselves and each other, and come out a little better than we hoped. That would all be wonderful, but even if we all just survive with our hope and curiosity intact we will have accomplished more than most.

Good luck to you all in the coming year.

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Today is the Day America!

Hello, America. I know it’s been a long, stressful, and often frightening ride from the primary races until now but soon, very soon, it will all be over. Today is election day, and we can all finally make our choice and move on.

I had planned to come here and remind you what was at stake and who the better candidate was but I’ve changed my mind. At this point, most of us have our mind’s made up, and there is very little anyone could say to sway us to from our candidates.

If you believe Trump is the candidate shown to be the liar with dangerous ideas about where the country should go, you know you are smart, informed, and compassionate and nothing will change that.

If you think Hillary has come through all her years of hard work and experience, fighting tooth and nail to do what she believes is right, and is still less qualified than a man who has lied and defrauded people his entire professional life, there is nothing that can save you from your ignorance.

If you believe the candidate that has been shown to be the candidate of choice for the sexist, the racist, the homophobic, and the xenophobic is the one who will bring America back to her former glory, there is no way you will see anything that isn’t filtered through your blinding privilege.

If you want to move this country toward a future where hatred, fear, and paranoia dominate our media, our elections, our view of the rest of the world, and their view of us, there is nothing I can do. I cannot give you empathy nor open your heart.

The time has passed for making our arguments and begging one another to step into the light. The time has come to let the chips fall where they may.

One thing we all can agree on is the importance of our vote, no matter who it is for. I am here to encourage each and every one of my American followers to get out there and cast their ballot for the candidate who says she will work to bring us all together again—whoever that may be.

Make sure your voice is heard, and make sure your voice is calling for a future where America is a place of positivity and compassion, for all!

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Featured image via @SillyRepublicans

 

Monday Motivation // Act Like the Person You Want to Be

Hello, dear readers and happy Monday! I know I know, Mondays aren’t happy. Mondays are for being tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting nothing more than to crawl back into bed and escaping the world.

But, let’s try something different. From now on Mondays are the days when we get to start all over again. All the bad things that happened last week don’t matter anymore. This is our second chance, and this time, we might just get it right.

From now on Monday’s are for making the changes we want to see in ourselves.

For me, this Monday is turning out to be a sweet relief from the stress and sickness I experienced all of last week. Already I feel better, my workload is lightened, I have energy, and I am focused. Today, I think, will be a good writing day. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for it either. I am over 4,000 short of my NaNoWriMo word goals and still figuring out where my plot is going and who the hell these characters actually are.

“Tell yourself first of all what kind of person you want to be, and then act accordingly in all that you do. For in almost every other pursuit we see this to be the course that is followed.”

— Epictetus, Discourses

For a long time I have day-dreamed about being the kind of person who wakes up early in the morning, drinks a ton of coffee, and writes anywhere from 500 to 2,500 words in my sophisticated home office until noon. I would then eat a healthy lunch and spend the early

I would then eat a healthy lunch and spend the early afternoon hours doodling, listening to podcasts, blogging, tweeting, and reading. The dog and I would walk around the neighborhood before dinner and my girlfriend, and I would spend the rest of the night on the couch in front of the TV. I’ll wrap up with some desert and journal writing.

This is my ideal day and I’d very much like to live it every day. It will be a long time before I can do it—if I ever can—but I live it as closely as I can in the hopes that not only does practice make perfect but that the steps I take trying to live that way now will get me closer to my perfect vision later.

I wake up early and even though I have to go to my day job rather than my sophisticated home office, I still pretend. I am lucky enough to work at a job when I am often getting paid when there is no particular task for me to be doing. Plus, the hours I do have are split-shift, so I regularly have large blocks of time to write when my mind is at its most creative and productive.

I write, I drink coffee, I eat lunch, I go for walks, and I blog and tweet, all in as close a proximity to the time I wish I could be doing them from home.

I am lucky that my life allows me to spend a great deal of time pretending I am already the writer I hope to be one day.

In addition, I talk about writing and the kind of life I’d like to live as often as I can. I tell others what I am doing and why. I encourage them to get in touch with their creative sides and to daydream and pretend they are living their perfect lives already too. I do this because I see other creatives do it. They did it for me. They say the secret to being the person you want to be is to accept that you are that person now and to live accordingly. What better way to accept a truth than to spread that truth around?

I try to be a writer, a real writer, in all that I think and do. I want to be a good person, a successful person, a fulfilled and proud one too. I strive to think of myself as already being that person and day by day, minute by minute, the more I do it, the more I change, and I can see now that one day soon I won’t have to pretend so much anymore.

This week I encourage you to the same. Do it for you, but do it for me too. The more I see it, the more I believe it, and I need a dose of faith to keep it going.

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