And one of my favorite cards is IX of the Major Arcana: The Hermit. It’s a card that reminds me that a quiet life–one lived in solitude, pursuing the quest for knowledge–is a noble life. Don’t get me wrong. A noble life can also be filled with love and family and loyalty.
But there is an ancient tradition in all cultures of the sage, or crone, who brings a light into the darkness. And they come bearing that light because they’ve been there, they’ve survived it. They know the way.
These are my mentors. The men and women I sit with every Friday and write alongside, composing in beat-poet tradition, following the breath, breaking the line, improving a little. And then we read.
My hands used to shake as I sat down at the cafe table and pulled out my pen. Sometimes they still do. These writers teach writing; they’ve published short stories and books and poetry. Some of them penned plays that are in production. And then, there am I. Relatively unknown. Writing a first draft. What, on some days, wouldn’t pass for even a first draft.
But then, it was Hemingway who said, “The first draft of anything is shit.”
And he was right.
And sometimes, like we talked about today, you’ve just got to get it down. Then, it’s there. You can work with it. You can return to your attic room or your scholar’s hut and improve upon it in the hours of solitude still to come. It isn’t about it looking good when it’s born. It’s about trusting the process and pushing through it.
This is something that I’m realizing they’ve learned already. They are the hermits who are further along the path than I am, and they’ve learned that you push through the fear and doubt. And then you make something anyway.
And then a bit of magic happens. As with the hermit’s lantern, a bit of something inside the work catches fire and begins, slowly, to flicker and then to glow and then–just a breath–and it throws a steady light into the darkness where there once was nothing.
This is art, I tell myself. This is faith. One page, one word, one breath at a time.