The Writer as a Cup
“From now on I hope always to educate myself as best I can. But lacking this, in future I will relaxedly turn back to my secret mind to see what it has observed when I thought I was sitting this one out. We never sit anything out. We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” –Ray Bradbury
Sad that Ray’s passed. He’s done so much for writing, so much for literature. We’re lucky he’s left gems like this behind—not just from his writing, but from his musings on the subject.
The idea of writer as cup is fairly simple—we’ve an entire world, millennia of research and knowledge and wisdom, with which to fill ourselves. And, even if we choose not to actively pour these riches into our brains, they will force themselves into us. The point is this: whether you believe it or not, your cup is full.
Being a writer consists of the ability to learn to tip ourselves over, as Bradbury said. How do we take that knowledge, wisdom, beauty, love, oppression, revenge, betrayal, and pour it onto the page? I think there’s a few ways to do it effectively:
1. Be proactive in your filling: If you’re passive, your mind will be filled with more meaningless stuff than you can enumerate. Instead, choose what you want your mind to be filled with. That is, read. Experience life. Don’t be content to “get through” life, but instead, as Thoreau said, “live life deliberately.” Find the beauty, the passion, inherent in every moment of every day. Record it in your mind. Save it, so that later, you can pour it out with all its flavor intact.
2. Make “pouring” a habit: Writing is not the only way in which you can “pour” life’s experiences out. Be deliberate in your speech with your friends, in your high school essays, your conversations with coworkers and bosses, your work reports. Take pictures. Write a poem. Draw a picture. Make a sculpture. Film a movie. Write a song. The more you pour, the better you’ll be at it.
Life is out there. Enjoy it.
Until next week, good writing.