As a writer and avid reader, I truly believe in the wonder words are capable of, the lessons that reach in and mold us from the journeys we’ve taken in the world beyond reality, the one with the power to touch us though there is nothing we can actually grasp. So, for today’s post, I thought I would share the words from my favorite book that comfort me during the arduous process of querying and facing the demons of rejection, and sometimes more heartbreaking, hope.
My favorite book is called THE MOUNTAIN IS YOUNG by Han Suyin. Ever since the first time I read it, sometime during the 90s, this book has been my friend, the one I turn to in times of distress or when I just need to right my thinking after it has tilted.
Han Suyin’s lovely story follows the life of a writer named Anne Ford, who experiences an awakening of her self, her faith, her writing, her heart, all set against the backdrop of Khatmandu. The book involves some passion, some Eastern philosophy and spiritualism, and lessons every writer can learn from... and lessons every person can grow from. Anne, in the story’s beginning, is living in a cage of society’s making, something she has chosen for herself as well. She is “nicely dead” walking through her life, something all too many of us are guilty of at different points of our journeys.
Khatmandu wakes her up. A fellow name Unni does more than that. And she scrapes away the hard shell she’s been living in to grow new skin, new life, and the possibility that comes from it.
Though out of print, this book is well worth finding and reading. And though it has so many gems in the exquisitely written text, the words that help me most as a writer come from Anne’s conversation with a man called the Field Marshal (I’ve shortened it a bit to get to the core of what moves me, but definitely check out the entire book that always reminds me why I love words so much).
“I don’t think I underestimate,” said Anne. “I wanted to write once upon a time, but I’m not a genius, and I think the spark is gone.”
“Why qualify and delimit with a word which means exactly nothing, and thus diminish your powers, whatever they may be?” said the Field Marshal. “Do not worry to give a name to what you do, my friend. Is it not sufficient that to you something is given, not to be buried in the ground, but to use? Use it well, with no thought of success or failure — but then I should not reiterate what you know better than I do.”
“I don’t,” said Anne. “I just don’t always know what is right to do.”
“That is everyone’s question. A problem, which only faith, belief in some creed, appears to solve. You can believe in all humility, seeking the depths of yourself,” said the Field Marshal, who sat like a small Buddha in his chair, his head wrapped in a cloth, his belly strapped in a large pink waistband to protect it from the cold, “you can do, but never be attached to success or failure in your actions. In other words, remain detached from the fruits of action...”
“It is difficult to be detached and perhaps still work with the same élan.”
“On the contrary, it is easier to work if you believe that you are but a vessel to do God’s will, and divine to that extent... Let God who made the world worry about it. Your duty is to do, and thus to revere life.”
I’m not sure I need to follow that up with anything, because what could be more powerful for a writer than to know that we are doing what we are inspired to do, whether you believe that comes from God or the universe or whatever word is used to express the kind of connection writers feel when they are inside their gift.
The world may see us as brilliant one day or maybe not, but truly, our only real duty is “to do, and thus to revere life.”