Saturday, February 5, 2011

I Must - Laura's Tattoo

I've thought about getting a tattoo for years. The thing is, tattoos seem a little out of character for me. I'm not the type of girl who would get a tramp stamp, and I'm most certainly not the type of girl who would decorate her whole body with colorful sleeves and murals. (Although, that is TOTALLY my type of man. But that is neither here nor there...)

I wear jewelry that represents certain ideals I value or even moments in my life I consider milestones. I wear a Tree of Life necklace every day; I have an owl necklace that my two best friends on the planet also wear; there is a ring on my left middle finger - right next to my wedding ring - that signifies the moment I finally forgave something I'd been holding onto for years.

But the convenient thing about jewelry is that I can take it off at any time. Decorating my body with ink, quite frankly, scares the bejeezes out of me. A tattoo for me, then, would have to be something so meaningful I will never regret its presence.

After years of thinking about it, I know now that if I ever get a tattoo, it will be the simple words, "I must" written like the print of an old fashioned typewriter on the inside of my right wrist.

"Why, Laura?" you may ask. Quite simply, because of the following excerpt from Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet:

There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. 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….

This is possibly the best advice I've ever heard, and since I've already told you what I'd have tattooed on my wrist, you know my answer to his question.

I must. I must write. That's why I do this. That's why I stay late at school or don't go to the mall with friends. It's why my husband sometimes has to take a backseat to my characters. It's why I push myself, why I feel human, and why I dream.

And it is, above all else, the thing I need to remember most when I question myself. When the rejection letters come, or the agent who requested that full says it isn't for her, when the doubt and the "I sucks" and the "I'll never be good enoughs" seep in, the voice inside my head should say "I must." It should remind me of the real reason I do this - without writing, I am not ME. Writing is essential to my being, my wellness, and my identity.

If you haven't read Letters to a Young Poet, do yourself a favor and get a copy and a few Post It tabs and highlighters. You'll need them. Seriously great advice packed into every page.

I'm really curious, readers... tell me what you think of Rilke's words. OR tell me what tattoo you'd get. (I'm so curious about your tattoos, readers. I'm curious about what you think of Rilke too. But mostly the tattoos.)

(Also, the story will continue. Erin is away at the moment and has left me to my own devices. MWUAH HA HA. While the cat's away...)


Caltheous (Erin) said...

Oh sweet synchronicity! I adore you.

I am away at Pacifica checking out their Depth Psychology program in Somatic Studies - which I have decided to attend. I live on the East Coast and now I am going to study on the West Coast for five years or so... by communiting there once a month for a few days. Crazy? YES! Where my heart is? YES!

Just today I was recalling my tattoo. And I was deciding to get it as soon as I can find a trusty artist for the work. So it is ironic that Laura wrote about her inky plans.

It will be a tramp stamp - yes, that's right - and it will be an eagle flying with wings spread wide, under a spiral sun. I have it designed already and I know it's what I want to do. And so, I must fulfill it just because I must and for no other reason.

Today I was reminded something very important: The purpose of life is NOT to arrive safely at death. So live! Live! Live!

Thank you, Laura, for 1. Reading my mind. and 2. Posting something so wonderful. I promise to buy the Letters to a Young Poet and read it with postit notes in hand. :)

SarahBeth said...

You know about my tattoos. My wrist hurt a LOT and it was swollen for about 3 days after.

So worth it though. I love this idea. :)

MBee said...

I have 3 (well technically 4 but one is covered up by my newest). I have a Yin Yang inside a sunburst which is a replica of a necklace I wore all through high school. I have a butterfly for when I left home and spread my wings & I just recently got a goldfish and lotus in water. It's an incredibly gorgeous piece of art. Next I'd like to get a phoenix, 1) for picking myself up after the past couple of crappy years and 2) one of my novels has a phoenix theme.

I'm not a huge poetry fan, but I came across this in a book once and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I may have it put somewhere someday:

A frightening menagerie, my emotions are
Too many and varied to number
Like creatures they crawl and they fly above
Tearing my body asunder.

There's also something kind of deliciously naughty about being the type of girl people don't expect to have ink. It surprises most!

Alexa @ Not Enough Bookshelves said...

That book is now of my TBR list, sounds amazing. As to tattoo's I have always wanted one, but I am afraid of the pain. If I ever got over my fear and/or they let you have an epidural in a tattoo parlor then I would get a compass. One of the characters in my WIP progress has it and I like his reasons, well I guess his reasons are my reasons. So yes, a compass, but I might just buy one on a necklace :)

Laura said...

@Alexa - A compass would be my second choice, as my fantasy series is entitled "The Compass Rose Trilogy."

This is my favorite necklace choice:

Searcher said...

Laura, true words about what makes a writer. The intense, painful and most tortuous labour of love that i won't wish on my enemies, is something i live for everyday. My tattoo - a big one in the middle of my shoulder blades - is of an angel with brightly colored butterfly wings. The angel herself is a simple line drawing - tucked in, pensive, letting her wings be the focus of attention, while she quietly watches. It's a comment on how i live.