Inside Out; or Engaging the Inner Life Outerly

Recently I read an article exhorting newly published writers, and the rest of us too, to protect the inner life. It suggested that the outer life of taking in hand the trembling self and promoting the work, giving readings, trying to get reviews can all chip away at the inner life. And I thought yes, this is my problem. I’ve been overly concerned with what my outer life could/should/would be, leaving my inner life to grow wan and undernourished.

But I wonder, as I wonder about all perceived dichotomies and dualities, if I’m missing something with this perspective. Because I have learned that so little of life is dual or dichotomous, so little is always one thing or another, so much is mutable, connected, tricksy.

When I am working well, I am at ease. My outer life can be whatever it happens to be when my inner life is engaged. At least, to some degree. If my outer life is engaged, my inner life is content to travel along. At least, for a while. So the inner and outer lives aren’t quite two things, nor are they a continuum. Are they that thing of light, particle and wave? Are they the Pushmepullyou?

Is it really about the sense of engagement, regardless of the nature of it? A sense that I’m “working,” the brain firing, the mind making leaps, that I’m reaching out and the world is reaching back in some way — is that what I’m looking for, whether it’s to be found in a rich discussion with other people, or a task well done, or a fruitful day at the page? In this way inner and outer are only the gallery of engagement, the engagement itself the goal.


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