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Rainer Maria Rilke on Writing (and Critiquing)

July 12, 2010

With nothing can one approach a work of art so little as with critical words: they always come down to more or less happy misunderstandings. Things are not all so comprehensible and expressible as one would mostly have us believe; most events are inexpressible, taking place in a realm which no word has ever entered, and more inexpressible than all else are works of art, mysterious existences, the life of which, while ours passes away, endures…

You ask whether your verses are good. You ask me. You have asked others before. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are disturbed when certain editors reject your efforts. Now (since you have allowed me to advise you) I beg you to give up all that. You are looking outwards, and that above all you should not do now. Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all—ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple “I must,” then build your life according to this necessity; your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it…Then try…to say what you see and experience and love and lose.

(Excerpted from Letter One of Letters To A Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke (Translation by M.D. Herter Norton)

This pretty much sums up my thoughts on the matter. I recommend reading the rest of the letter (and the collection, as a whole). — Tim Keeton

5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 18, 2010 2:12 am

    Inspirational stuff!

    Thnks for the share, Tim


  2. mairmusic permalink
    July 27, 2010 9:47 am

    I’m nominating you for the Pink award for your cool blog. Check my blog in about an hour when I’ll have the post & links done.

  3. August 5, 2010 2:19 am

    This is the brutal truth about writing and any other artistic activity for that matter. Look inwards, not outwards for motivation… thanks Tim!

  4. September 15, 2010 12:39 pm

    “most events are inexpressible, taking place in a realm which no word has ever entered”

    these are the words are been trying to find to express the unexpressable nature of experience…thanks:)

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