This I believe: Writing brings meaning to life. This truth I’ve found in my own life and from working with students and clients over the past 15 years. You see, people dream and live lives of stories. And in writing these stories you explore your bruised or open heart, examine your beliefs, understand your past, and come to grips with what it means to be human in our times.
Writers stem from an ancient tribe of scribes who make sense of this spinning planet through dabbing black lines and squiggles onto a page. It’s remarkable when you think about it that those squiggles can connect with readers and transport them to a castle where young wizards are in training or evoke a mood in a six-line poem. How words on a page can switch on a reader’s inner cinema and touch his or her emotions.
But writing also has great value for the self since it involves analysis, thoughtfulness and creativity. In writing you are evoking all the senses and making concrete the fleeting.
Writing taps our deepest feelings, helps us come face to face with our mistakes and regrets, passions and heartbreaks, and is a means to return all the gifts we’ve been given.
Our stories when told have power to move us, change us, make us question and remember. Some stories come from a sense of urgency, a desperate need to make sense of the senseless. And some of our best stories will come from that terrible place within of grief and loss and hopelessness. And yet, not all writing is from the shadowland of our souls. We also write to capture bliss and savor friendships, note wonders and sometimes when writing we crackle with joy. We write because we’re collectors, scavengers, always noticing the ordinary and extraordinary, and in this process we also find ourselves.
During a group exercise in my writing workshops a churchlike silence falls over the room when writers bring thoughts to the page. Beginning writers are sometimes unsure about what to write. They’re afraid that their jottings are trivial, their imagination’s stale. They want to write, but don’t know where to begin. And sometimes I hate to tell them the truth: there are no formulas, short cuts, or recipes for writing. Writing is scary. Writing is hard and getting published often harder. You’re going to be lonely at times. Inspiration comes and goes. Talent doesn’t mean much; it’s all about rewriting and persistence.
So I tell them to start with what they know—their pasts, their loves and fears, their grandmother’s kitchens. I recall the place of memory that I write from. It is a northern place of trees and gathering waters and cold and true night skies with stars that spangled overhead dazzling as diamonds. In telling my stories and helping other write theirs, I have found so much meaning I sometimes can weep at the beauty of it all.
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