This is The Way of The Vocal Creator
10 mind-bending lessons by a distinguished award-winning author
Vergílio Ferreira was one of the greatest Portuguese novelists and essayists of the 20th century. With his novel “Aparição” (“Apparition”), he joined the existentialist cultural movement. We revere him as one of the most innovative fictional authors of his time, constantly dwelling on metaphysical questions about death and the self.
I was still a teenager when I read the masterpiece “Aparição.” Since then, the thought and art with which he shaped each word have made me an avid reader of his work, and he is the author with the most entries on my library shelf. Hence, part of my esteem for the author’s work stems from the meta-literary reflections about writing. It is on these that I want to focus on this article.
There is a fundamental question that each of us must ask ourselves if we are to be writers. Let us look at what Vergílio Ferreira has to say about that.
Why do I Write?
I write to create a habitable space for my needs, for what troubles me and for what is difficult and excessive. I write because enchantment and wonder are real and their seduction is stronger than I am. I write because error, degradation, and injustice cannot be legitimate. I write to make possible the reality, the places, the moments that wait for my writing to awaken them from their confused way of being. I write to evoke and fix the path I have walked, the land, the people, and everything I have lived that I can only recognize in writing, because in it they find their essence, their emotional truth, which is the first and last thing that connects us to the world. I write to make the mystery of all things visible. I write to be. I write without reason.- Vergílio Ferreira, in ‘Pensar’
For the author, the act of writing is a form of constant questioning. We write to realize what does not yet exist but also to perpetuate what once was. When writing, the author doesn’t seek to break with reality, but on the contrary, through writing, he recovers the essence of everything and reveals the ultimate truth of our existence. The roles are reversed, and it is as if the work precedes the act of creation itself.
10 Lessons About Writing by Vergílio Ferreira
1. “To write is to have the company of the other who writes.”
This startling realization inspired my motto, “Writing to find the surrogate writer within me.” Writing is a simultaneous act of depersonalization and self-knowledge. When we sit down to write, we awaken a hidden voice within us, as if we were an oracle of ourselves.
2. “On the one hand, I can not stop writing. On the other hand, I realize that I have nothing more to say. So I take the average and occupy myself mainly with imagining what I should write.”
We all have troubling moments when we find ourselves in limbo in the creative process. The author found a solution to this problem in a certain aurea mediocritas (the golden mean); thus, we break through the blockage by simplifying the process.
3. “It is easy for a writer not to look like everyone else. It is hard for him to resemble himself.”
The question of originality is a pressing theme in Vergílio Ferreira’s work. Many writers seek to distinguish themselves by being different when, in reality, they should be concerned with remaining true to themselves.
4. “Every truly original writer is different. But not everyone who is different is original. Originality comes from the inside out. The difference is the other way around. You can see difference, but you feel originality. So one is easy, and the other is hard.”
This insight ties in with the previous one and clarifies how easy it is to write something different, but we must know how to look to ourselves and not others to be truly original. The true essence of originality lies in looking at our inner selves.
5. “How subtle, how millimetric is the imbalance of what we write. A brief detour and it is already unbearable for the reader. All because their freedom is their highest privilege. And so he finds it hard to submit to us.”
Vergílio Ferreira always puts the reader in the center, which is one of the most relevant insights. Writing is an internal process that takes place externally and independently of the reader’s immediate freedom. Therefore, when we complain about not being read, we must look inward and not outward because the problem is always on the writer’s side and not with the reader.
6. “The great dream of every writer — if he has one — will be never to find the “ideal” reader. For if he did find him, his written work would die there. Every reader recreates the work he reads, and the eternity of that work means its constant renewal.”
Most of the advice we find about writing mentions the benefit of finding our niche and thus the “ideal audience.” Those who follow me on this journey know that I am a non-aligned writer. I write a poem as I write a review about the latest blackened death metal album or a short-form piece on Megan Thee Stallion’s new single. I pursue the dream that Vergílio Ferreira mentions. I write envisioning how a Swedish black metal fan could read my latest article about the collaboration between The Weeknd and The Swedish House Mafia and feel inspired to experience EDM.
7. “Do not write a novel in the “horizontal,” focusing on merely descriptive and entertaining ventures. Write it in the “vertical,” with the intense experience of what is heartfelt and enticing.”
That applies to any form of written work; whether we are writing a review of a music album, a poem, or a screenplay, we must live what we write and transfer those emotions to the readers.
8. “You have said or written millions or many thousands of words. And there must be a star in this nebula that is yours. You will never know.”
The constant search for the word that defines us is the ultimate plan of every writer, and that is why we return to them day after day until we finally become stardust again and the cycle repeats itself anew.
9. “A good sentence creates its truth. That’s why politicians choose their slogans carefully to create theirs.”
This insight also ties in with the previous one. The difference between writing and being a writer lies in the almost demiurgic ability of a writer to create new realities with the same raw material (words).
10. “What are your essential words? The words that remain after all the hustle and bustle, the projects and accomplishments. The words that wait for everything inside you to fall silent so that we can hear them. The words you may ignore because you never thought of them. The words that may endure when the great silence comes.”
Becoming a writer implies embarking on a tireless search for those essential words.
Like Sartre or Camus, Vergílio Ferreira has an existentialist mantra: “Do not seek to know everything. Leave a space to know thyself”. That is the ultimate insight we must keep in mind if we want to become writers, not just someone who writes.
- Writing is both depersonalization and self-knowledge;
- Imagine yourself writing, and you are halfway to your goal;
- Be true to yourself, and your writing will be unique;
- Acknowledge the freedom of the reader;
- Explore your writing horizon and look beyond the fringes;
- Write vertically;
- Find your writing star in the nebula;
- Strive to create a new paradigm with your content;
- Look for your essential words, and you will find your writing voice;
- Know thyself.
Thanks for reading this article. Please consider supporting our community of creators by becoming a Vocal+ Member. Feel free to come back at any time and pick up another thread from my Vocal book of content. Small tips and big hearts are highly appreciated. Till next time. -Rui