Leonard Cohen once told me things. Not directly, of course, but through song. When he sings, though, he sings directly to the listener. He stops the heart long enough for you to hear the things he tells you. “There is a crack in everything…that’s how the light gets in.” (From ANTHEM, from the album THE FUTURE, 1992) Maybe these are the truest words that a writer should hear and embrace into their life. The pain that we endure in life…the struggles, the denials, the slights and blights and fights and jabs—these are the things that wake us, that make us listen. Every crack we endure is testament to the light. Open your heart to the cracks, accept them, and you will have the light. Living our lives…every detail—good and bad—is a good way to embrace the emotions you will need to write a story others will want to read. When Cohen tells me things, I listen.
“Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin, dance me through the panic ‘til I’m gathered safely in, lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove.” (From DANCE ME TO THE END OF LOVE, from the album VARIOUS POSITIONS, 1984) Find the muse who resides inside of you. Dance with the muse. Accept that YOU have the power to create your words—you wait for nobody else to do it for you. The creativity comes from within, not from some non-existent muse you wait for…don’t panic. Dance. The words will come.
“From bitter searching of the heart, quickened with passion and with pain, we rise to play a greater part.” (From Villanelle For Our Time, from the album DEAR HEATHER, 2004) After you write, write more. And when you finish writing, write more. Sometimes Cohen tells me to keep on trucking. Keep searching, keep struggling, keep digging. The more we reach into that deep well to find our passions and pain—those things that make us tune in and forget that we are WRITER, those things that allow us to be simply WRITING—the more we will connect to the words we write. The more we connect to the words we write, the more the reader will connect to our words they read. Go deep…and rise to play a greater part!
“He would never learn the names of the trees he passed, he’d never learn anything, he’d always confront a lazy mystery.” (From BEAUTIFUL LOSERS, a novel, 1966) When I read that line, I said, “Yes, yes, yes!” I don’t know what it is about me, but I don’t know anything. I live the lazy mystery. I sometimes fret over not knowing simple things about everything around me. But the poet inside me says, “forget about it”. To not know the concrete information about the world around you helps you to see it more brightly. Still, I sometimes feel like the blind. There is good and bad in being fully in the know AND being fully ignorant. Just, whatever you do…take notice of the world around you. As a writer, you are reflecting it back to your reader. Either reflect it through intellectual channels or emotional ones. If you don’t know the name of the tree, you better write a hell of a description about the way its leaves caress the sky!
Leonard Cohen tells me always, not directly, but through songs and words, to never lose youth. Stay forever gold, if you can. A writer is to listen and record with the ears and eyes of a child. “Seven to eleven is a huge chunk of life, full of dulling and forgetting. It is fabled that we slowly lose the gift of speech with animals, that birds no longer visit our windowsills to converse. As our eyes grow accustomed to sight they armour themselves against wonder. Flowers once the size of pine trees, return to clay pots. Even terror diminishes. The giants and giantesses of the nursery shrink to crabby teachers and human fathers.” (From THE FAVOURITE GAME, a novel, 1963) Don’t allow those flowers to shrink, your terror to diminish, the birds to stop conversing. For the love of God, please, whatever you do, do not allow your vision to grow accustomed to the wonder. When you sit down to write, remember the childlike wonder you once had…embrace it fully before you begin to reach inside. Be a child when you play in the field of words. Children don’t have as many rules, they are not as rigid…they allow what to be to be. A child doesn’t harness in his muse, her creativity, his editor, her suspension of disbelief. Just do yourself a favour and do not bring your baggage with you, when you sit to write your words. Fight against the clay pots!
These words, and all the other words that Cohen gives us, mean something different to each reader, to each listener. It doesn’t matter what they meant to you…that they may mean something completely different. What matters is that we let Leonard Cohen tell us things, not directly, of course…but through song and word. This concludes this sermon on the man who sometimes tells me things.
Enjoy the Cohen tune below, and enjoy your Saturday.
A wonderful live recording on YOUTUBE of Cohen singing my favourite Cohen song – ANTHEM.