While back in Montana for a few months I taught a course called Imagination in which fifteen college freshman embark on a mind-bending odyssey (along with Homer) that coaxes them to refocus their viewing lens and approach life from a more creative perspective. Our imaginative journey through the arts and sciences was invigorating and reminded me of why I love being in the classroom. I was also reminded that the older I get, the more important it is to keep my own imagination in play as a driving force in my life.
I relish my minor role in guiding young adults through their college education, but I have nowhere near the same level of self-confidence as a rookie writer. Still, I persist in taking small steps in my freelance writing career. My next step is into the German media as part of a Jewish Women’s Histories in Berlin project with AVIVA-Berlin.de. I’m the odd American in a small group of Israeli women and women from the former Soviet Union who want to pursue journalistic endeavors in Germany. I’m diving into a more Jewish topic than anything I’ve previously written about and I’m feeling queasy about it already. I guess queasiness can be a good thing though since it preceded the birth of two of my three children.
Come to think of it, there are some close parallels between birthing a child and birthing a creative work. Rilke commented in Letters to a Young Poet that “the woman, within whom life dwells in a more direct, fruitful and trusting way, must, after all, have become basically more mature, more human than the man.” He implies that a woman’s creative potential and ability to love might be more readily achieved than that of a man who is more “easily pulled down by the weight of the lack of physical fruitfulness.” Strong feminist words from one of Germany’s greatest poets, but words that will perhaps bear on the gestation of my next writing project.
I’ve derived a lot of inspiration from Rilke who so poignantly reminds us to embrace solitude and to live and love the questions in our hearts. Perhaps that’s the best angle for me to approach a Jewish writing project, for what I appreciate most about Judaism is its love of questions over certainty of answers.