The Right to Write: Witness (book club)

image by Lívia Cristina L. C.

image by Lívia Cristina L. C.

When I looked back at my original posts on The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life, I had trouble identifying what chapters this entry went with. I was not a good record-keeper five years ago, apparently, and as I re-read the book, it’s been fun matching up my scattered thoughts from the first read. But this one? It reminded me how much I’ve grown, how much writing has given to me. I barely mention the original text. One phrase jumped out at me, and I went with it. See if you can find it? Thanks again for coming along on this journey with me.

::

The honeysuckle blooms now, I smell her presence before I see her—senses get entangled in her vines. I have sweet memories of dusty roads and drops of her dewy honey dripped onto my tongue.

I’ve been remembering happiness lately. This is new for me, as the sorrow most often announces its presence even in the midst of joy.

Most of this is due to the introduction of Morning Pages into my life, I know. This dictation of the constant flow of thoughts that pass through my head has caught me by surprise more than once. Old wounds are gentler when written on the page. I am able to witness these things, as Julia Cameron says, and pass by without bruising.

People grow weary of listening to the brokenness of others. I weary of my own. In the spring the little road that I run on becomes crowded. All the grasses and wildflowers fluff out, spill over like a river cresting its banks. What is left is a tiny path, strewn with beauty and brambles. The red-winged blackbirds fuss at me as trudge by and the meadowlarks call out from their hiding places in the deep grasses.

But in the summer and early fall, the brush hog comes through and clips it all back, tidying things up and widening the world again.

That’s what writing does for me. First comes the spilling out before the order can be obtained. There are too many words, too many thoughts, too much pain and joy to contain them in this shell.

In writing, I notice my life. Each moment takes on sacred presence. I do not have to write about God for my words to be pleasing to Him. He sees each moment, recognizes the holy. Life is filled with breath and sweat and blood. How can I walk on by?

There are things intangible in the writing life…benefits not readily seen by the eye.

I read this article, at a friend’s bidding, and pondered. The discussion is about whether to encourage our children to seek higher education or not. The author cites research about the financial strain of a college education and numbers of adults who, having gone to college, end up in positions that do not require such an education.

The article has its merits. There are practical reasons for some to pursue vocational training, to be sure. But it was the words of Morton Schapiro, and economist who is the president of Northwestern University, that resonated.

“You get some return even if you don’t get the sheepskin,” Mr. Schapiro said.

He warned against overlooking the intangible benefits of a college experience — even an incomplete experience — for those who might not apply what they learned directly to their chosen work.

“It’s not just about the economic return,” he said. “Some college, whether you complete it or not, contributes to aesthetic appreciation, better health and better voting behavior.”

Schapiro’s comments reminded me of the words of an older friend. She once told me that her father used to say: If you educate a woman, you educate a family.

She grew up in a time where it was unusual for a woman to pursue a college education. My friend now has her Ph.D., if I’m not mistaken.

Our experiences rub up against those in our lives, influencing how they see the world.

What does this have to do with writing, you ask?

I see. The way that I see is a gift to my children and others in my life. Writing allows me to peer deeper into this world; to see beauty that others pass over.

I write. I see. I witness my life.

Come along with me. There are rewards intangible.

Next week, three more chapters Body of Experience, The Well, and Sketching.

Week 3: Invite the Muse to Tea
Week 2: Write from Love
Week 1: Start Where You Are
Introduction: Invitation

Image by Lívia Cristina L. C., sourced via Flickr, used with permission.

Comments

  1. says

    Laura,
    Thanks for witnessing and sharing…This: “The way that I see is a gift to my children and others in my life. Writing allows me to peer deeper into this world; to see beauty that others pass over.” Blessings to you, my friend and grace as you transition with Teddy at college.

    • says

      Thank you, Dolly. I’ve been thinking of you lately. We need to catch up soon! I bet life is very busy for you now with starting class. Praying all is going well and falling neatly into place.

  2. says

    I am playing catch up today, Laura. The sentence that resonated with me the most from last week’s reading was on page 54 regarding audience: “Better let the audience be someone real…. write specifically to that someone.”

    It reminded me of a day I spent at a local radio station years ago. Several of us here at the college were going to work together to do a weekly radio spot. I realize now that that experience was my first real stab at consistent writing for an audience other than my students or family. The spots were short — just 2 minutes.

    Before we started creating and wrting, we spent a training day at the radio station. We met with all of the staff as individuals for little mini-workshops. Each of them was so talented and passionate about their work. I don’t remember much about that day, but one thing that has stuck with me was their commitment to their audience. As a staff, they new their demographic, and everything that they did was tailored to their audience. — The majority of their listeners were moms in their 40’s with kids. So, they decided to create a fictional woman and even gave her a name. I believe it was Laura, if I remember correct.y. Each DJ that we met with talked about “Laura” and how our message needed to be tailored to her: She was in the car with kids at rush hour. How were we going to reach her and grab her attention? How were we going to meet her needs as a busy mom?

    Name your audience. Reading the chapter on “specificity” reminded me of that day at the radio station.

    • says

      What a wonderful experience that must have been, Lyli! And very practical good advice. I wonder if I can describe the person I’m writing to? I have thought of this space as “sabbath on the page.” I wonder what kind of person would seek such a space? I’ll have to consider. It’s so good to revisit this book and find myself learning new things this second time around. So glad you are with me on this journey.

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