Must I Write

The past few days I’ve been in a foul mood. It was only yesterday that I realized that Rainer Maria Rilke told me the reason – a long time ago.

This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your while life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.

(From Rille’s AMAZING “Letters to a Young Poet”)

I write from 4:30-6:00am every morning. The reasoning is for another day, so I’ll leave it at that. But the last two days forces conspired to prevent me from waking in the dark (late rehearsals, dogs, children, etc.). And the result was difficult to be around.

When I first read Rilke’s book in college, this quote was a challenge to me — because he later essentially says that if the answer is no, then find something else to do. And I asked myself, where do I fit? AM I a writer by nature?

Now, more than a decade after I copied this quote onto a 3×5 card, I know the answer. It’s written in my personality when I go too many days without writing music. I MUST write music, and for me, the time is in those “silent hours of the night.” 

It’s strangely reassuring to be in a dark mood because I haven’t practiced my art.

And exceedingly comforting to know I got my writing in this morning!

Rilke as interpreted by the wonderful artist Austin Kleon
You must read his book “Steal Like an Artist.”

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