Last night I made the huge mistake of taking a nap at 8:00pm. Naturally, I woke up three hours later bouncing off the walls thinking, “What the hell am I supposed to do now?” And like a gift from the gods I stumbled upon a FORAtv clip of legendary writer Joyce Carol Oates reading from her acclaimed novel The Gravedigger’s Daughter, and after 51-minutes of pure revelatory, mind-expanding bliss I decided to take a moonlit walk on a hot summer’s night with her pearls of wisdom and inspiration fresh in my mind to see what they might grow.
No longer do I read my horoscope or have any belief whatsoever that the heavens above are in control of my destiny. They are, however, an incredible source of inspiration. The Moon is in epic form these days, and as I moved myself through the hazy streets of Montreal last night I couldn’t take my eyes off it. And I wasn’t the only one. Often I would see others turning their eyes upwards to revel at the Moon’s beauty, including my friend Fausto whom I bumped into on Saint Laurent Boulevard and we shared a few minutes and thoughts together realizing that the entire city was indeed cast under this mysterious celestial spell. As I floated through the Plateau, I became overwhelmed with thoughts of how this exact same Moon lit the night sky as the Pyramids were being built, as the Romans built the Pantheon, and as the Ancient Chacoans built their mindblowing Great Houses in perfect alignment with the cycles of the Moon in the desert of New Mexico (I was recently captivated by the documentary The Mystery Of Chaco Canyon which reveals the unfathomably complex archaeoastronomy embedded in the design and layout of this civilization’s kiva structures, and you can watch it by CLICKING HERE). I’m not sure if Joyce Carol Oates stares at the Moon when she’s searching for the seeds of her next novel (although I have read that running is a huge source of inspiration for her), but I’m certain she, too, has stared at it in wonder many times throughout her life. Lately I’ve been pondering a lot of heavy questions about my place in this world, my dreams and ambitions, and how I am choosing to spend the precious little time I’ve been given on this Earth. I’ve always believed wholeheartedly that having a vivid imagination is one of the biggest keys to happiness, and I am pleased to say I definitely have this key. The real question is whether or not I am tapping into its full potential, or is it being eclipsed by something I cannot see?
Listening to Joyce read from The Gravedigger’s Daughter, and then speak about her experience as a writer — including why she writes and how she writes — stirred up a whirlwind of questions inside my mind and left me howling at Montreal’s midnight Moon screaming to myself, “How do I get to that place?” That mysterious and elusive place where a creative individual knows with 100% certainty that they are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing with their gift. Like a lock that found its one true combination, Joyce has found that elusive place and and has unlocked her infamous powerful voice. She has not only opened herself up with her epic talent, she has also been expanding the minds of millions of readers for nearly 50 years.
In the question/answer period that followed, Oates begins to speak about the incredible, transformative power of failure. She told the story of how William Faulkner (1896-1962), one of the most important writers in the history of American literature, had a great deal of difficulty in finding his own voice. His biggest reason for this was the fact that for many years he was imitating other great writers (i.e. Aldous Huxley, Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, and others). It wasn’t until out of pure desperation that he was forced to write with his own voice which was the only thing that remained. Soon enough he flourished and reached heights of brilliance that most writers can only dream of. In his late 20s and early 30s, Faulkner wrote one masterpiece after the next such as As I Lay Dying, The Sound And The Fury, and Light In August. Oates points out that had Faulkner not failed so disastrously in the beginning (i.e. had he sold even so much as a mild 20,000 or 30,000 copies of his early novels) that mild success would never have led him to his masterpieces. In other words, he would have spent the rest of his life continuing in the direction of those mediocre novels, never achieving the greatness that he is so famous for now by finding his voice and fully unlocking his gift.
As a creative mind, I find myself trudging through similar ground as Faulkner did in his early years. Hearing life stories such as this fills me with a renewed energy to believe in myself and push even harder through the brush — hacking away at anything and everything until I find that voice. It’s out there somewhere. And I’m willing to search from here to the Moon if that’s what it takes.
To watch Joyce Carol Oates read from The Gravedigger’s Daughter CLICK HERE.
SEE ALSO: Ira Glass On Why It’s So Important To Never Stop Creating
SEE ALSO: The Dirty 30s: The Search For Mid-Life Meaning In The Modern World
SEE ALSO: Legendary Writer Joyce Carol Oates Reads From Her Novel “The Gravedigger’s Daughter” And Discusses Why She Writes