I just turned in my second set of assignments for my writing class. I em enjoying it immensely.
It’s hard to get the work done, and there are days I wonder if it was a mistake committing myself to this effort, but most of the time I’m very happy I made the choice. Last week at therapy, I voiced my concerns about the class and overcommitment and my therapist told me that if it was really the only thing I could think to do for myself (I told her it was) then I needed to do it right, to take the time away–perhaps at a cafe on a Saturday–to make it about me and not about stress and deadlines. So I went home and told my husband that I intended to take the class and that it was going to be the thing I did for me, and would he support that? And he did, and so I’ve approached the class with that in mind, and it’s been freeing.
So far I’ve surprised myself by enjoying the reading more than the writing assignments. We’re reading selections from two anthologies and the first six selections have been very interesting. This week we read “The Faith” in The Dolphin Reader (Douglas Hunt, ed) in which David Bradley tells of a sermon he saw his father give. That particular night his father shared a personal story of fear and weakness (a truly uncharacteristic admission) that deeply moved the congregation and taught Bradley something surprising about writing:
Until that night I had not understood what it meant to write. I had known that a writer’s goal was to reveal truths in words manipulated so effectively as to cause a movement in the minds and hearts of those who read them. But I had not understood that it would cost anything. I had believed that I could do those things while remaining secure and safe in myself–I had even believed that writing fiction was a way to conceal my true feelings and weaknesses. That night I found out better. That night I realized that no matter how good I became in the manipulation of symbols, I could never hope to move anyone without allowing myself to be moved, that I could reveal only slight truths unless I was willing to reveal the truths about myself.
Truth is always something I strive for in my writing, but part of my coming here was redefining what that truth looks like. I do believe that good writing costs the writer, that the really meaningful stuff is hard to say and harder to let other people read.
There is something else though, something just as important as the cost to the writer. It’s not just how hard the words are to write, but your purpose in writing them. Why are you putting this hard truth out into the world? What do you hope to accomplish? Why is the high cost worth it?
I think our answers to those questions are deeply personal, and very important. We will find them at the very core of who we are. The reasons that we write, our purpose in telling our truth, is etched into our very foundation. If we’re not sure of ourselves we will never be sure of why we are writing.
My truth is that I’m still not sure: I don’t yet know who I am, what I want to say or why I want to say it, but I recognize that the answers are entwined in the forming of the questions. I created this space to map out my response, to determine my truth and the cost I’m willing to pay in saying it. I’m intrigued by what the answer might be.
Do you agree with Bradley about the cost of writing? Do you know why you write?