Monday, August 07, 2017

Lan Samantha Chang: Protect your Inner Life

[...]anxieties are magnified for new writers who make themselves vulnerable when they share their work with other people,[...]

“But I am concerned rather with an internal than an internal truth; and, as I have already said, the internal truth is almost indescribable. We have to speak of something of which it is the whole point that people do not speak of it; we have not merely to translate from a strange tongue or speech, but from a strange silence.”

We must instead remember St. Exupery’s words that “what is essential is invisible to the eye.” We must wall off our inner selves from the colonizing part that assesses, quantifies, judges.

The inner life is the child who flourishes in a quiet and non-judgmental space. The inner life has very little currency in a social setting but it is precious. It can’t be found in anyone else, and no one else can see it. It’s a secret. To quote Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler: “But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside of you until it touches everything. And you can feel it inside you. If you never take time out to let that happen, then you just accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you. You can make noise with them, but never really feel anything with them. It’s hollow.”

Hold onto that part of you that first compelled you to start writing. Hold onto that self through the vicissitudes of “career.” A writing life and a writing career are two separate things, and it’s crucial to keep the first. The single essential survival skill for anybody interested in creating art is to learn to defend this inner life from the world. Cherish yourself and wall off an interior room where you’re allowed to forget your published life as a writer. Breathe deeply. Inside this walled-off room, time is different—it is flexible, malleable. We’re allowed bend it, to speed it up, slow it down, to jump forwards and backwards, as our minds do. We can to circle back to our thoughts and memories picking and choosing the most meaningful to us. There’s a hushed, glowing sound, like the sound coming from the inside of a shell.

- Lan Samantha Chang

Lan Samantha Chang is the author of a collection of short fiction, Hunger, and two novels, Inheritance, and All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost. Her work has been translated into nine languages and has been chosen twice for The Best American Short Stories. She has received creative writing fellowships from Stanford University, Princeton University, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.