“I attack the paper, struggling like a lion.”
Vincent Van Gogh
Sound familiar? Just the other day, I was helping a friend with a writing project. It was a note that needed to strike just the right tone. Optimistic me! I thought it would take us a half an hour to dash it off. But we spent quite a bit more time on it. We were both pleased with the result, but it took far more energy and wordsmithing than we anticipated. At one point, the phrase, “writing is wrestling” just popped out of my mouth.
Writing is wrestling: Cool idea, if I do say so myself! It reminds me of the Bible story about Jacob and his blessing. In the story, a stranger wrestles with Jacob until the “breaking of the day.” When he is unable to overpower Jacob, the man touches Jacob’s thigh so forcefully that he puts it out of joint. But even though he is wounded, Jacob continues to fight on. He refuses to let go until the stranger agrees to bless him.
Sometimes it seems to me that this story captures perfectly the struggles we go through on the page. Like Jacob, we have to wrestle with a “stranger” and make him bless us. For us as writers, the stranger may be an idea we’re struggling to express, our doubts and frustration, or a moody muse. Or the battle may be with ourselves — to get out of our own way and let our words tell us what they want to say. Whatever it is that’s opposing us, we have to somehow wrestle with it long enough and hard enough until it “blesses” us — until we break through the barrier or limitation that’s holding us back.
In the Bible, once the stranger blesses him, Jacob asks him to tell him his name, but the stranger refuses: He chooses to remains unknowable. Isn’t that a fabulous ending? And isn’t it just a perfect way of saying that in the end, the creativity we bring to our work is unknowable: we can’t define it or understand it or conjure it up, we can only express it. Write on!