Monday, April 09, 2007

Katherine Mansfield on writing ...

I'm reading a collection of Katherine Mansfield's letters and journal entries, collected by C.K. Stead, at the moment. I read an entry this morning that especially resonated with me and I wanted to share it here. This is part of a letter by K.M. to her husband, J.M. Murry. At the time of writing she had been ill for three years with the consumption which finally killed her:

"Isn't it possible that if one yielded there is a whole world into which one is received? It is so near and yet I am conscious that I hold back from giving myself up to it. What is this something mysterious that waits - that beckons?

And then suffering, bodily suffering such as I have known for three years. It has changed for ever everything - even the appearance of the world is not the same - there is something added. Everything has its shadow. Is it right to resist such suffering? Do you know I felt it has been an immense privilege. Yes, in spite of all. How blind we little creatures are! Darling, it's only the fairy tales we really live by. If we set out upon a journey, the greater the temptations and perils to be overcome. And if someone rebels and says, Life isn't good enough on those terms, one can only say: 'it is!' Don't misunderstand me. I don't mean 'a thorn in the flesh, my dear' - it's a million times more mysterious. It has taken me three years to understand this - to come to see this. We resist, we are terribly frightened. The little boat enters the dark fearful gulf and our only cry is to escape - 'put me on land again'. But it's useless. Nobody listens. The shadowy figure rows on. One ought to sit still and uncover one's eyes.

I believe the greatest failing of all is to be frightened. Perfect Love casteth out Fear. When I look back on my life all my mistakes have been because I was afraid ... Was that why I had to look on death? Would nothing else cure me?"

and to Hugh Walpole on writing ...

"You know that strange sense of insecurity at the last, the feeling 'I know all this, I know still more. I know down to the minutest detail and perhaps more still, but shall I dare to trust myself to tell all? It is really why we write, as I see it, that we may arrive at this moment and yet - it is stepping into the air to yield to it - a kind of anguish and rapture."

This describes for me, some of both the difficulty and reward of writing.


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