~ Scream ~
“So what constitutes good writing?” he asked me.
“Good writing is something that happens because it has to happen,” I said. “It’s like an eruption of some kind, and if it’s not bursting out of you – if it’s not flowing from your fingertips with a sort of explosive energy – then it probably isn’t true.”
“What do you mean by true?”
“Something that is elemental to who you are. Something that comes from the core of your heart.”
“And how exactly do you write from the heart?” he asked.
“You’ve got to find the position from which you can express yourself without filter. All artists have to find that special spot from where they can scream – that special spot where you channel your suppressed emotions and let them pour out of you. You pour it out through your fingertips or your voice or your paintbrush. If you’re a ballet dancer you pour out through your feet. If you’re a violinist you pour it out through your violin. You’ve just got to find that spot where you can let go and erupt. You’ve just got to find that spot where you can scream.”
My fellow writer looked somewhat surprised by my answer, but seemed to understand the nature of what I was saying. Perhaps he expected something more about the process of writing, some specific skills and practices and techniques, but in my opinion you could have all of that and not write a single word worth reading. To me, it didn’t matter how fluid the writing was; if it didn’t reveal the soul of the writer, then it was like sex without an orgasm. I knew this from my past experiences with the artform. When I looked back at my first writings, I could see that the sentences were smoothly written and the prose well-constructed, but underneath at the core there was just no real substance. It came from the mind rather than the heart, and it was evident that the words lacked the blood and guts that I believed was fundamental to good writing. But now, through continued persistence to scratch an unwavering itch, I felt I had now found a way to let my deepest emotions surge out of me whenever I started putting words down onto that blank page.
Ultimately it was something I had been searching for for a long time. As I said, good writing happens because it has to happen, and the sheer relief of getting out things that were killing me inside was enormous. In a way it was closer to an act of therapy than it was any sort of literary process. It was something that I felt could benefit many people out there. So many have a lot of shit inside of them that is tearing them up, and the act of creation was a vice that was sorely needed, even though they often didn’t realise it. To create was a primal thing, and if a person was denied a healthy way to howl out their pain, then it often twisted them up from the inside. That suppression of the scream could lead people to bitterness and violence; to depression and desperation; to hateful hearts and scowling faces. Indeed, it was a great energy that had the potential to become destructive, but if one could learn to channel that energy inside of them into a form of expression, then it could be turned into painting and poetry; into dance and song; into rhythm and blues.
Those things could not only provide great relief to the artist, but they also had tremendous value to others out there. I thought of some of the people who had inspired me by allowing themselves to scream. Thom Yorke screaming through his falsetto. Van Gogh screaming from his paintbrush. Charlie Parker screaming through his saxophone. Franz Kafka screaming through his stories. Charles Bukowski screaming through his poems. This animalistic howling from the wilderness of another’s heart was a shamanic thing, and to me its healing power was what made art the greatest form of medicine available to the human soul. It was a medicine that had enough power and force to save lives, to inspire dreams, to awaken minds and bring others back from the darkest depths of hell. It was a medicine that even had enough power to turn you into a creator yourself.
Of course, not everyone has such emotions brewing inside of them. Some people went through life simply didn’t feel the need to scream. But undoubtedly there are many out there who did. The person I told my view of writing to, I never got round to reading his writing, and I wondered if he was also one of them. From what I had heard I didn’t believe so. Usually the people looking to write because they wanted to – and not because they had to – were not the ones touched by the muse. Indeed, the true writer doesn’t need advice, because the pain of holding it inside usually drives them to find their form eventually. This is why the true artist is consumed by a burning desire to constantly create. And I guess sitting here alone in this room writing all night for the thousandth time means that I am maybe one of them. The act of putting these words down on paper is something I am now dependent on, and in my heart I know I will be screaming for a long time yet. It is an inescapable nature of people like me. Some of us are born to live in peace and harmony. Some of us are born to watch television and sleep all night. Some of us are born to live stable lives and sit in cafes and read books.
And some of us are born to scream.