When writers go mute

“Things aren’t all so tangible and sayable as people would usually have us believe; most experiences are unsayable, they happen in a space that no word has ever entered, and more unsayable than all other things are works of art, those mysterious existences, whose life endures beside our own small, transitory life.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke, “Letters to a Young Poet”

With a profound sense of gratitude to Rainer Maria Rilke and his description of things unsayable, I share in the poem below my own struggles with finding words to share the depth of my experience at times in my life when words simply can’t do justice to the truth.

When writers go mute

I am a writer.
Words are my artwork,
my servants, my tools.

Yet each word I write,
so carefully chosen
and ordered and placed,
paints only the tip
of the iceberg of meaning
lying hidden beneath
in the unsayable depths.

No matter how skilled
I may ever become
the fullness of truth
will be forever beyond
my ability to write it
or wrestle it down.

I am a writer.
I strip myself bare
with the stories I share
of my life and my dreams,
my heart and my soul.

But sometimes the words
cut deeper than clothes.
If these words were shared,
they’d cut skin away too,
leaving muscle and sinew,
tendon and bone,
even organs and blood
on display for review
by the critics and cynics
and the Internet masses.

I am a writer,
and words are my life.
But days like today,
my fingers go mute,
torn between what’s unsayable
and what cuts too deep
to share with impunity
from those who might see.

At moments like these
the best I can do
is offer a token
of my apologies
for what can’t be shared
when words fail me.

 ©2012 KJ Stanton

A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a fragile and vulnerable place to be, so I am committed to keeping this a safe place for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight are not welcome here and will be deleted.

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5 thoughts on “When writers go mute

  1. I am a firm believer there is a strong mind/body connection. If I have laryngitis, I think it’s a message from the Universe to quit speaking and just listen. As a writer who sometimes goes silent too, I think it’s an opportunity to listen to what our heart is saying without putting it to paper (our voice). Some things in life are simply too personal and too profound to share.

    But these times give us the chance to write about bacon and other balanced things in life. (Not to minimize the importance of writing about bacon – I smiled the whole time I read your post because it made SO much sense to me. I then promptly went and fried a pound of bacon and ate it all with a glass of wine – I am such a rebel!) 🙂

    • Yes, I was mulling over those things that are “too personal and too profound to share” last night. Words serve me so well so much of the time, but there are those moments when what I want to say goes deeper than I can find words to express or is so personal that the words catch in my throat (or my fingers) before I can get them out. It’s fascinating to me to notice the things that trigger those moments.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the bacon post. That image amused me too, and I have been craving bacon ever since. I have some in the freezer that I may need to thaw and eat … perhaps with a glass of wine. What a great combination!

  2. Those moments of unspeakable/unwriteable insight, I think, are moments we are humbly made aware of “truth.” We may not always like the message we are receiving but they are truth in some degree. And how do you put your spirit’s truth to word? Those are also the moments I crave more of…those moments of “knowings” that are so addictive to me – that bring me closer to authenticity. Seems the more I search, though, the less I find. Guess they come when we are ready and not before.

    • Yes, those moments are incredibly powerful, aren’t they? And they do seem to come when they are ready and not on my timeframe, that’s for sure!

  3. Pingback: The Perspective of the Sea « Notes from a "Closet" Writer

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