“I’m against the picture of the artist as the starry-eyed visionary not really in control or knowing what he does,” William Golding once said. “I think I’d almost prefer the word ‘craftsman.’ He’s like . . . one of the old-fashioned shipbuilders, who conceived the building of the boat in their mind and then, after that, touched every single piece that went into the boat. They were in complete control; they knew it inch by inch, and I think the novelist is very much like that.”
I like the shipbuilding metaphor, the image of the builder touching every piece that goes into the boat, because that’s what we do when we write. We may have flashes of inspiration. We may go into states of “flow” where ideas rush into our brains so fast we can barely get them out. We may experience times when our work seems to take shape of its own accord, where the characters begin to tell us what is going to happen, rather than vice versa. But when all that is through, there is still the need for craft. There is still the quiet, difficult, careful work of piecing together the novel, the poem, the short story. The painstaking weighing of each word and every punctuation mark. The testing of sentences and paragraphs. The making sure.
When I think of the rush of ideas, I think of Oshun. This goddess of the Yoruba and Caribbean peoples is gorgeous, sexy, vibrant, and pulsating with life. She loves beautiful things and braided hair, baubles and bright colors, drumming and dancing. She is all about energy and fertility.
But when I think of the meticulous, silent work of polishing and refining my writing, I think of the Hindu goddess Saraswati. She, too, is a goddess of the arts, but an unassuming and quiet one. While Oshun dances, Saraswati sits strumming the veena, an ancient musical instrument. While Oshun is sexy, Saraswati is modest. While Oshun is associated with prosperity, Saraswati’s simple white sari is a symbol of her preference for knowledge over wealth.
Oshun’s altars are bedecked with bells, fans, mirrors, and shells, and her worshippers offer her honey, oranges, and even French pastries. But Saraswati is offered the pure white lotus, symbol of the Divine.
We need them both: Oshun’s vibrancy and Saraswati’s contemplativeness, Oshun’s fecundity and Saraswati’s simplicity. They complement and support each other. Without Oshun where would we get the energy? Without Saraswati, where would we get the focus?
Causes Jill Jepson Supports
Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Interational Society for the Protection of Burros and Mustangs, National Wildlife Federation,...