Passion for truth is an idea with more than one face. It includes the determination to look closely and long, to be unsatisfied with the secondhand and assumption. It includes the emotions and the body…the writer’s whole being is the instrument of perception, not only the mind…only the hunger for something beyond the personal will allow a writer to break free of one major obstacle to originality—the fear of self-revelation.
— Jane Hirshfield, “The Question of Originality,” Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry.
An act of imagination is an act of self-acceptance.
…one reason a poet [writes is] to become a better person…a lifetime of writing [is] a slow, accumulative way of accepting one’s life as valid.
— Richard Hugo, “Statements of Faith,” The Triggering Town.
The above statements lead me to this thought: the act of writing—in my case poems, but writing creatively in general—is an act of faith, and not necessarily in the religious sense. At some point during the last three years, I made the transition from thinking of myself as wanting to be a poet to having faith that I am into the beginning of this journey of being a poet. Somehow, I picked up the idea that I am a poet. A young poet in terms of experience and publications, but a poet still. If I had to guess, I would say that this faith began to develop sometime between the Spring of 2012 and the Fall of the same year. I think, however, that this went unrealized until this Spring—and maybe, even as I write this down (more on this later)—when I began consistently writing new material again. The realization that came from producing all these new poems was this: they are more successful at the outset than those I had been writing earlier in my career. This is not to say they are perfect—no poem is perfect, I think, especially in its germination period. These recent poems, however, are closer to whole at the outset than those I was writing a year or eighteen months ago. This realization cemented the idea that I was becoming a poet.
How exactly is writing an act of faith? I see it in three ways:
- Writing is an act of faith in the self.
- Writing is an act of faith in the material.
- Writing is an act of faith in humanity.
Maybe before entering into these three understandings of writing as an act of faith, I should delve into what I consider faith to be. Had I been asked that question fifteen years ago, I might have responded in the religious context—the belief in some idea or concept without proof. Now, however, I answer in this way: faith is a confidence in people. To further this definition, that confidence develops out of a history of experience with a person’s or peoples’ actions and abilities. To say that I have faith in myself is to acknowledge and accept who I am; to recognize that I have some estimation of my abilities to perform this thing called life. With this understanding of faith, then, we can examine these three instances of considering writing as an act of faith.