Wednesday, September 3, 2008


"A work of art is good
if it has grown out of necessity."

---Rainer Maria Rilke

I've been thinking about that statement since I read it yesterday morning. Does my writing grow out of necessity? Or I could also ask: is my writing necessary?

From Merriam-Webster's online dictionary:

Main Entry:
Middle English necessarie, from Latin necessarius, from necesse necessary, probably from ne- not + cedere to withdraw

Date: 14th century
1 a: of an inevitable nature : inescapable b (1): logically unavoidable (2): that cannot be denied without contradiction c: determined or produced by the previous condition of things d: compulsory2: absolutely needed : required

I think the part of the definition I identify with the most is: "that cannot be denied without contradiction." My writing isn't required or inevitable; but if I avoid or deny it, I find that my life starts to become one big contradiction of everything I value.

"Not + withdraw" is pretty powerful, too. Writing is engagement with the world, even as it is done in solitude.

And you?


  1. I'd call my writing "of an inevitable nature." As in, every time I've tried to stop, it keeps calling me back.

    But I struggle mightily and constantly with how necessary it is to others.

  2. I struggle, too, Jacqui. Both with what's necessary for me, and what's necessary to others.

    I used to hate it when writers said they MUST write, because I knew how depressingly easy it is to NOT write. But Rilke also says that's what's required is "to await with deep humility and patience the hour of birth of a new clarity." Which is a much more eloquent way of saying: Butt in Chair and What's Necessary Will Come.

  3. I don't have anything profound to add, as it's 7:30 a.m. and I haven't had coffee, but I want to thank you for the Moment of Rilke.

  4. I love how you've put it - avoiding writing would be a contradiction of everything you value.

    There's something about the feeling of inevitability, too. Even when I'm not working on the writing project I feel I ought to be working on, I often end up writing something else--a blog entry, a long e-mail, whatever. The words just come out. For many years I had no intention of being a writer, but it turns out that regardless of intentions, I do write.

  5. I began writing just over a year ago. Now, I can't imagine a day without a sentence or phrase in it.

    I am, because I write.

  6. a.fortis: "it turns out that regardless of intentions, I do write." Exactly. Sometimes I almost think that I write in direct opposition to the intensity of my intentions!

    Amy, I love your clarity: I am, because I write.


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