Like you, I’ve been entering new territory this week. I think (though I’m not yet sure) that this new work will be a collection of essays about everything from water, to memory, to chocolate. This week, as part of finding my way toward this new work, I was writing about lakes.
I began my writing about lakes with the definition of a word. Lake. The word lake means pond or waterway. Pool or stream. Or water pooled in a riverbed. The waterways of this new work are leading me writing about the heart, about love and belief and why I write.
Like you, I’ve sought accolades. Awards, grants, prizes, publications, blurbs. Degrees, titles. Tee shirts that say where I studied or which conference I just went to or which sunny beach I just walked on the trip I won on Wheel of Fortune. Even the “likes” one gets on Facebook are a kind of accolade, aren’t they? Also, like you, I’m not sure I’ve ever found the accolades I’ve thought I’ve needed most. As you say so well, “I don’t know if my work will receive the kind of attention I long for in this life, or if it will be remembered after I’m dead. I only know that I must do it.”
But what is that thing, the accolade. Tribute. Honor. A rave review. And, as you say, the conferring of knighthood. Admission to the ranks.
It also means “praise.” And I realize that what I want more and more, is just that.
Over the years, I’ve gone to all kinds of services, seeking praise. Everything from Quaker meetings to Pentecostal churches, to a Buddhist temple in Bangkok where I watched the monks pitch pennies into the belly of a fat Buddha.
In all the lines I’ve waited in, via all the long lists and applications, the coups and not-coups of my writing life, when have I most truly found praise?
Lately, I find myself sitting in crowded rooms at public events—readings, concerts, movies—and lifting my head just to listen. In meditation, I’m instructed to listen intently. To focus on the five senses as I sit or lie in bed or walk down the street. Let the world slide away as I listen. For what am I listening?
More and more I think the praise must come from me. Me, praising the words. Not them, honoring me. Maybe the words are listening for me these days.