There’s nothing healthier for a writer than a little bit of change. Change in perspective, structure, style, tired habits. While instinct tries to rein us in and confine us to what’s comfortable and known, it’s the unexplored territory that offers the greatest opportunity for growth.
Whether you’re desperately seeking relief from monotony or struggling to adapt to change that’s arrived unexpected, Rainer Maria Rilke implores us to embrace what is new. “Want the change,” the Bohemian-Austrian poet urges us in this beautiful poem from Sonnets to Orpheus.
For writers, the wisdom of these lines offers a wellspring of creativity. Let go of those writing hang-ups. Ditch one character and add another. Write first thing in the morning rather than late in the evening. Trade your usual writing nook at a local café for a curbside table in another neighborhood. Cross out that word. And don’t underestimate: tiny changes can make major impact.
Sonnets to Orpheus
Rainer Maria Rilke
Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.
The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much
as the curve of the body as it turns away.
What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.
Pour yourself like a fountain.
Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.
Every happiness is the child of separation
it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, becoming a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.
(translation from German by Anita Barrows & Joanna Macy)