Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dante's Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise: Writing and Bliss

Dante and Beatrice speak to Piccarda and Const...
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How to become a writer
When Dante set off to write The Divine Comedy, he had only one requirement on mind: to write every day. That is what writing is all about: to write daily. Just write and you will have production; the corollary to this is write sporadically and you'll have sporadic production at best--nothing at worst..

Training o be a writer
Studying the style of authors, reading 10 hours a days, imitating your favorite writers, or memorizing grammar rules and syntax patterns will not help you a great deal. A little yes—but not a lot. We all benefit from studying, but the crux of the matter is to write every day no matter what. If you are a writer you must not lose your way.Writing every day is the best training, and the best way to develop the skills necessary to stitch together decent sentences.


Writers often give up; they lose their intensity, and soon their way—witness Dante:
“Midway upon the road of our life I found myself within a dark wood, for the right way had been missed.”
And in he goes through the gates of hell, after reading the ominous sign: “Leave every hope, ye who enter!”

Procrastination is Satan’s helper. Dante portrayed Satan frozen in hell. Don’t let the sin of procrastination freeze you in your creative impulse. Write. Rage. But write. Temptations and distractions are many, but Productive writers develop the will power to get something done every day. We all know writing takes time, but not a lot of time. With enough practice one can write a page in five or ten minutes. It may not be great writing, but it doesn't have to be; we can always pluck out the thorns later. Just think that no circle of hell can detain a willful soul. Dante had Vergil —a poet he admired— to lead him out of the darkness and circles of hell towards the light. Writers live to bring light and dispel the shadows that fetter our thinking and of those whom we wish to help. The best lesson we can take away from Dante’s Inferno is that without effort there’s no human hope:
“Consider well the seed that gave you birth: you were not made to live your lives as brutes, but to be followers of worth and knowledge."


Dante described Purgatory as a mountain to be climbed. First stretch: Have a clear topic, situation, story, novel, or idea of what you want to write about. Have a goal. If you lack this you’ll be all over the place; you’ll be like a directionless flood. On the other hand: if you have a defined goal, you’ll be like a well-behaved river that will flow into the sea. Next stretch: Climb up one step at a time. Do it in installments. No task becomes insurmountable if you chunk it down. If your goal is to write a paper of 750 words, think of it as three chunks of 250 words each. The higher plateau: Avoid writing in your mind, for pondering and contemplating, and cogitating isn’t writing at all. Get into the habit of thinking with pen and paper—or a computer screen. Build a file; create a record that you can see right in front of your eyes and that can be retrieved at will. Enjoy the top of the mountain: You have reached to top of the mountain when you see your rough draft right in front of you. This enjoyment is but a moment of ecstasy, but ecstasy nevertheless, for it is: "the conversion of the soul from the sorrow and misery of sin to the state of grace." The greater bliss will hit you when you see the fruits of your labor turned into a final product.


While Dante had Beatrice to guide him through the celestial spheres to get close to God, writers only have themselves and their minds to get there. In my experience, every time I complete a piece of work, I experience an instantaneous vision of paradise. It is bliss. “This is my light, this is my contribution—my effort,” I say to myself and I rejoice.

Indeed, writing is a Divine Comedy. So, let’s write for “The secret of getting things done is to act!”

No greater words were ever said for those who are hesitant to do, to act, and to write.

Senada Selmani, model

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