On Why We Must Write, Rupi Kaur and Sisyphus

Roll that Giant boulder—Sisyphus style

Believe it or not, there are days when I don’t feel like writing. There are days when I question why I spend so much time reading words nobody’s going to read. Words I’m only going to delete later. And I wonder why I’m choosing to be that clueless hamster running in the wheel—or Sisyphus rolling that damn boulder up the hill only to watch it crash back down to the bottom so he can start over again. My punishment is an endless paper ball and it weighs more than you’d think. That paper is drenched in the heft of my soul.

Okay, enough with the comparative imagery and on with the point.

Why We need to keep writing

(or doing whatever your  personal boulder represents)

A couple of days ago, I felt blah and wondered (again) what I am doing with my life. Usually, I only feel this way when I am NOT writing, but it’s the middle of NaNoWriMo, so I definitely couldn’t blame my existential crisis on not feeling prolific enough–I’ve got 20,000 words a.k.a 12 short stories under my belt since November 1!

Anyways, as I was saying before I interrupted myself, even binging on Netflix wasn’t doing much for me, so I picked up a book from my latest book buying binge, and I started reading. I hadn’t realized it was a book of poetry—I rolled my eyes because usually poetry bores me (I know that as a writer of poetry I shouldn’t admit this, but I tend to be too honest for my own good). The first poem caught my attention.

By page two I had a lump in my throat.

By page five I was sobbing and thinking That’s it! That’s exactly what it felt like–I’m not the only one who has been through this!

I would like to thank Rupi Kaur for having written milk and honey and for understanding me–for putting words to what I’ve survived–for reviving me.

So what made this book so powerful? It wasn’t overly poetic or clever. It wasn’t the kind of cutting-edge poetry that will have scholars sitting on the edge of their seats. What Rupi Kaur did so well was to tell the truth. She let herself be vulnerable. She let herself be real and relatable, and, in my mind, this is what literature is all about.

Now, If only someone could help our mythical buddy Sisyphus…

As a punishment for his trickery,  Sisyphus had to roll a huge boulder up a steep hill until the ends of time. His crime? His arrogant belief that his cleverness surpassed that of Zeus himself. Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to trick my readers into believing I know what I am doing, or that I think I am clever enough to make it somewhere.

the beauty of Self-imposed punishment

Let’s face it. I’m not Sisyphus, nor is writing the same as being forced to push a giant boulder up a hill. I tend to get a little dramatic at times, but maybe that’s what makes me a (good) writer. I think most creatives are humble, Sisyphus was not.

Sisyphus’ punishment was futile. Writing is not.

Rupi Kaur reminded me of why we need to write. The impact of milk and honey solidified what’s been gnawing at me—I need to keep pushing my stories and poems up the hill—heck up a mountain—and keep letting them topple back to the bottom. I need to expose my core, let myself be vulnerable and take even bigger risks. This is how we all need to write (or paint or dance or lead). Although this is the most difficult way, it is the most effective. Even if I succeed at helping one person feels the way I felt reading Rupi Kaur’s heart-wrenching yet affirming poetry—understood and represented–I have realized my dream.

Thank you to all the writers/artists/dancers/sculptors/mentors who remind me that I am not alone in this struggle. Thank you, Rupi Kaur, for waking me up.

You might also like enjoy these past posts:

The Art of Letting Go


Write About What You Know—and What You Don’t Know


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