Sometimes the same topic crops up-- without any obvious connecting thread-- over and over within the space of a few days. When that happens, I figure it's time to examine it more closely.
This week it's been all about whether there are natural-born writers or just people who write because somewhere along the way, they landed on the writing path. Well, here's what I think:
There’s an ancient text known as the Bhagavad Gita, which tells the story of Arjuna and his encounter with Krishna. Arjuna is a warrior, surveying the opposing armies just before battle. Behind him is the army he leads, composed of his friends and family members. But as he looks across the battlefield, he notices that the other army is composed of … his friends and family members.
Being a decent enough guy, Arjuna decides that he will not kill the enemy. He likes them, he loves them, they are his own people. And so he drops his weapon, prepared to walk away.
This is when Krishna steps in to give Arjuna a wake-up call. “You are a warrior,” Krishna reminds him. “It is your dharma, your duty, your life work to fight.”
Of course, this is only a small bite of the larger meal that we get from the Bhagavad Gita. Krishna isn’t really telling Arjuna to go out and kill people; he’s simply reminding him that he has an obligation to do his job (be a warrior) to the very best of his ability, and let the chips (or bodies) fall where they may.
Like Arjuna, we all have our dharma. The baker’s dharma is to make the best possible food; the gravedigger’s dharma is to dig the best possible hole; and the writer’s dharma is, well, to write.
Does that mean that we are born knowing how to form a sentence or use commas? Absolutely not! Arjuna wasn’t born with the knowledge he needed to lead an army; the circumstances of his birth and all his life experiences gave him an edge over those whose dharmas were to be healers or singers or mathematicians. Still, Arjuna had to devote many, many hours to learning the mechanics of his profession. (The bakers and singers could have applied themselves to the proper studies and learned to be good warriors, too. It’s called ‘swimming upstream,’ but it can be done.)
A born writer may love stories and books, may envision brilliant storylines or rich characters, but that alone isn’t enough to bring a writer into full realization of her dharma. Arjuna learned to use weapons and strategies, and a ‘born’ writer is also required to study the stories spun by masters in the field and to spend countless hours memorizing rules of grammar and punctuation along with techniques for structuring plot and developing characters.
Arjuna probably never questioned his dharma. He was a warrior, without doubt. Writers, too, always know that they are writers, even if it takes a long time for that knowledge to make its way to the top of our consciousness. After the universe has put so much effort into getting all the pieces in place, wouldn’t it be a shame if Arjuna had gone off to be a mediocre cobbler instead of following his true, glorious dharma?
Wouldn’t it be a shame if those who are meant to be writers –and you know who you are—never sat down at the keyboard and claimed their destinies?
Ponder it. Then go write.
This post originally appeared on the Femmes Fatales blog.