Quoted by Robert Genn (Artist and owner of PaintersKeys.com, an art website) in his July 23 twice-weekly newsletter:
… “Why this hunger to write–I always ask myself–if not the longing to discover what I believe? The pen divines my thoughts.” (David Conover in One Man’s Island.)
When I was writing my memoir, Fragments: Growing Up Bohemian Poor In Dementia’s House, I stumbled upon one of those “best” discoveries: writing forces you to clarify your thoughts, ideas, and emotions. And in the process of rewriting you learn so much more about yourself.
Writing and self-realization go hand in hand. Those little bits of insight conjured up through writing are moments of grace. You are reminded that you are full of grace and have the capacity to recognize and appreciate those graceful moments, no matter how small, that you’ve experienced all along in your life. This engenders self-knowledge and builds self-confidence.
I love the writing process. In the beginning, when you write unedited, it is like all the garbage of your mind suddenly gets poured on to the paper. It’s incredibly bad stuff, but it’s cathartic. And necessary. My book started with writing about my mother for four hours straight. I was angry and hateful. Vitriolic. And so I felt cleansed afterwards. And I realize now that I couldn’t have written my little memoir as it is today, if I hadn’t first gotten rid of my pain and anger at her.
But after the garbage is disposed of, the work begins. You are confronted with the challenge of editing. It was an intellectual challenge that I enjoyed. The process gives you time to work out the kinks; look for correct words and appropriate phrasing, and cut the fluff. It was difficult to cut things that I thought were important, but what I had to do was stick to the point. Anything that strayed got cut, no matter how much I liked it.
Each time you sit down to edit a story, the writing helps you remember more details, or create more details. You remember how you felt at the time of the incident; and you again feel the poignancy of your young feelings. However, putting it down on paper creates a distance from a difficult event and its consequent pain or anger.
Once you write it down, it becomes one step removed. It’s like now that you’ve released it to the world, you discover there are people out there who have shared your experiences, or experienced similar pain and joy. You are not alone. Emotionally, it becomes easier to handle. It becomes easier to own, to wear, to live with and live through. It has been released from your body and mind and it frees your soul.
On the other hand, writing about good memories can help you relive events, remember the people who touched you, and help you feel close to them again. It can bring the spirit of loved ones alive again in your being, where they reside once they are gone.
That is what the process of writing can do for you.
With each rewrite, I got better and better at securing the focus of my stories. I learned so much about who I am today. I discovered that I am no word master and that’s okay. What I wanted to do was tell a story straight up, with the most clear and basic language that I could summon. I make no apologies. For me, it was the story that mattered, not a “literary” styling.
I feel “this hunger to write” that David Conover talks about because I want to delve deeply, experience the pain and the joy of my being. I want to understand who I was and who I’ve become. All those things I’ve experienced - my parents, friends, husband, stepson, pets, jobs, thoughts, emotional states – all the good, the bad, and the ugly are part of who I am today. I cannot deny them, for if I do, I deny my self.
© 2010 Susan Canavarro ”On Writing Fragments” – All Rights Reserved. No copying or use of text or images without written permission from the author, Susan Canavarro.
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