On a drizzling Thursday in October, I decided to dance salsa. It was after a long day at work, and in the thirty-minute drive to the modest classroom-turned-studio, I felt a primal part of myself turn impassioned and pristine. I sped across the highway like all I needed was a good dance. I had ironed my hair into perfectly tame waves, but after the lively spinning, it was all frizzy curls, an erratic mess of tangles. I was too incorporeal to mind. I laughed. In the rain, I drove away, the engine rumbling softly beneath me, a wild creature growling.
Writing is feral. It strikes in the night or the early dawn and makes wolves of us. I wake and find myself undone, bring inquiring fingers against my lips to wonder that I’m still human. The day, I live in a meditative trance, a dream, and at night, I am all yearning and lace. I sink into water to deliver myself a flighted molecular rearrangement, so that I might ease into the feeling of waking.
Frequent times I felt myself move, if I characterized them, it was in waking. There were flowers unfolding. Rays of sunlight warmed the room. The sheets were soft. And the dreamer woke. The dreamer, has always been waking. Perpetually, since the first solitary vibrato of self-awareness. There is a desire for things unnamed, a longing with nothing to long for, a nostalgia with no recollection, throes of want for the utterly unreachable, ultimately unknown. It is the exposure of my heart to myself, the excruciating mystery of it, so swollen and full that I feel I will burst into a thousand tiny flowers, a delicate trembling desperation. No one has ever taught me to feel this way. It is a ferocity, a reveling in the revelation.
Let me tell you a secret: everything I write is a love letter. And when writing is routine—when you want to write, it is advisable that it becomes routine—so becomes love in the process of creation. Love is a compulsion. It is not always spouting passion, or rising euphoria; sometimes it is a stoic I-must-do-this in my exhausted bones. I don’t mind a heavy heart; it keeps me on the ground. Perhaps it would be wise to master the art, of writing or of love, with a disciplined routine, but I have not learned this. I let the festering contemplations swell like violins. I let them ring into the distance. There is no advice a writer can bestow except to write when the impulse strikes—don’t wait, or it will visit infrequently—and to read even more often. And of course, to complete both with passion.
Passion is a common thread in my life, though I often try to subdue it. I was born to love—intensely, gratifyingly, desperately, and achingly. We were created to love. It is alarmingly intuitive. And it is my only motivation.
There is nothing more Divine than love. Have you felt the way it conquers? There is no greater force. And no force holier. In this adoration we’re exalted to lamenting how cruel it is that love overtakes us and we can give nothing in return. This force of love, in its beauty and ardent longing, will surely destroy us. For how can such goodness be without evil—is it deadly in its impossibility as we have known nothing else but both? Inches from pain we pray that our hearts are overwrought with love so that they may not shatter—or that they are stopped at once once so that we may die, and then live, immortal and fulfilled, as nothing but love, finally as disembodied souls.
And so, this is what I have to say of writing: channel love into creation. Write about what tosses and churns with life, what pierces through the spirit, write about justice, about injustice, about mercy, about indifference. Write about characters imbued with complexity, who are relentless in their pursuit of something—anything!—whose willpower and ability to survive is an astonishing force. Write plots that turn on themselves and into themselves with an immaculate devastation. Write themes that palpate with bewildering clarity or that kiss the sequence with soft symmetry. When I write, it is with all abandon, the same way one should dance.
My hair is always frizzy after salsa. After salsa, I attempt to tame it, brushing it down at the crown with the palm of my hand as though caressing an electric current. The moon soothes me. I deny the mysticism to anyone but myself. And to you, when I write.