Some thoughts about Rilke, writers’ block and creativity

I read a book by Rainer Maria Rilke some time ago called Letters to a Young Poet.

There is a passage that I came across today that I feel the need to share here with you:

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.” (Rainer Maria Rilke)

There is much to take from this that is healing and helpful when you are feeling down or anxious, confused or depressed.

Take the first sentence:

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart.”

I am going through something that is affecting my creativity, which may be obvious to some of you regular readers since I can’t seem to write. Despite having so much content in my draft folder, I hate all of it and I won’t publish any of it.

Rilke says to have patience.

So I will try that.

Next he says “try to love the questions themselves…” and “do not now look for the answers.”

Well, maybe there are no answers to my endless questions. Or at least not some that I am not entitled to. So why go through the endless what ifs? That’s what I do. I am a woulda, coulda, shoulda kind of person these days.

(Tell me to stop it. But first, tell me how so I can actually do that.)

Rilke also says “you need to live the question“.

In some way, by living the question, he suggest over time you will arrive at the answer without even trying. Or without pestering someone to provide you with the answers.

I have many questions without answers about many things going on in my life. Beating my head against the wall to try and figure out how to come up with answers has been making me miserable. So I will admit that following Rilke’s advice is much better.

Live the question. Have patience.

* * *

Earlier today I walked the puppy and my son down to the pebble beach at a local park. It was really hot and humid, but given the pandemic the parks and beaches remain busy even during the middle of a week/work day. Here in Toronto, many people continue to work from home, have much more flexibility in terms of their day’s routine, and the kids haven’t started school yet (and may be delayed again due to continued issues with the government and the unions).

The first beach near the entrance of the park is where Tucker licked a dead fish yesterday. I think he remembered because instead of acting all stubborn and whiny (he gets spooked and wants to be carried when there’s too many things going on), he was tugging toward the beach like crazy.

When we arrived, I noticed a man sitting on a baseball chair, sheltered behind some branches, reading his phone. He was turned away from us, but of course the puppy attracts all sorts of attention, so when we got closer, he looked up and smiled.

Tucker may be a little maniac, but he is adorable. People notice him. 🙂

When we got closer to the man on our way across the beach toward the other path, we stopped briefly to answer the usual questions.

“Yes, he’s really young, only 9 weeks old. Yes, he’s a pure bread Beagle.”

That sort of thing.

But it felt strange, in some way, to be talking to this man. The entire situation seemed a little unusual.

First of all, the man was incredibly attractive. He was tall (which I could tell even though he was sitting), with dark hair and some stubble on his face. He had on a simple tshirt and shorts, and his legs looked muscular in the way that implied he cycles.

But why was he there, all alone on the beach sitting on a chair?

Typically, people don’t bring chairs to these beaches. They sit on logs, or large boulders scattered across all three beaches down here. But this man brought along a chair…I wondered why.

I also wondered why he was on a beach in the middle of a work week. It was Wednesday morning, and the park’s population at that time is usually kids or elderly people, retired folk. Plus parents pushing strollers or chasing toddlers…

This man was about my age, maybe a bit younger, and just sitting there looking content and relaxed. Striking up conversations with random people and their puppies…

After a while, Tucker got bored and tugged us along. So we walked away and let the man go back to reading his phone.

We made it to the second beach and cooled the pooch off a bit in the waves. Then it was time to head back home.

On our way back along the path, we suddenly saw the man again. He was walking toward us, holding his folded chair in his hand. He was making his way over to the third beach, or maybe the marina. That’s where the path leads to. Again, he said a couple of things in passing, and then he was gone.

When I got home my thoughts kept returning to the man on the beach. I noticed I was plotting scenarios about him, thinking up background and circumstances; was he a fireman on break? A doctor who finished his shift? Did he take a walk along the park’s beaches because the marina was still closed? Maybe he owned a boat down there? Maybe he was escaping family life for a time, or perhaps he was a writer trying to get inspired…

That’s when it hit me.

Is my creativity back? Am I ready to start writing again? Maybe that man was the inspiration I needed to get my oompf back…why else would I let my imagination run away with me about a stranger whom I’ve spoken to for less than five minutes?

Perhaps I need to write something about him, devise a flash fiction piece, just to get myself back into the habit. What do you think? A mystery? A romance? An erotic thriller? Or just a story about a regular guy visiting a park during a global pandemic?

In the end, composing this blog post made me realize another thing:

I was able to put aside my worries and preoccupations, my heartaches and grief, my confusion at actions by others that remain unexplained, and focus on something new: a story about a man on a beach.

Seems, Rainer Maria Rilke was a very wise man indeed.





17 thoughts on “Some thoughts about Rilke, writers’ block and creativity

  1. I like the story idea. Maybe he’s a regular guy visiting a park during a global pandemic…AND a firefighter…a man contemplating suicide…an escaped convict…somebody with amnesia. I envision multiple chapters in which he is all of these things, and none of these things. Or maybe one of these things…but which one?

    Hmm. I may borrow this idea myself…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart.” i have been using that phrase for about 10 years now and it is so powerful.
    I think you have your creativity buzzing along again. As others have said, something written about those scenarios would be great to read. ( I have an imagined image of this man just from your post above.)

    Liked by 1 person

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