Monday, June 27, 2011

Peeling Paint

I love books discussing writing, the kind of books that encourage creativity and offer lessons on the writing process. This afternoon I pulled out one I'd picked up at a used book store last week. Written by Natalie Goldberg, it was published in 1986, twenty-five years ago. I liked the title of the book, Writing Down the Bones--Freeing the Writer Within, although I did find its first chapter rather funny with its mention of choosing writing tools carefully, and the author's admission that she had "not worked very much with a computer, but can imagine using a Macintosh, where the keyboard can be put on the lap. The computer automatically returns the carriage. The device is called 'wraparound'. You can rap nonstop. You don't have to worry about the typewriter ringing a little bell at the end of a line".

It was a discussion of the author's writing notebooks however which caused me to pause. She described having a pile of them five feet high, all spiral notebooks filled with her writing practice, on stairs leading up to her apartment. Her friend routinely plunks herself down into a pink chair in her bedroom and reads her notebooks. Natalie recalls her friend saying, "They are so intimate; so scared, insecure for pages, then suddenly they are not you--just raw energy and wild mind. And now here you are--Natalie--in the flesh, just a person. It feels so funny". Natalie explains that she feels good because she doesn't care that her friend sees how she really is. She wants someone to know her. "We walk through so many myths of each other and ourselves; we are so thankful when someone sees us for who we are and accepts us".

I've often heard people say that those who write memoir, the way I do, are narcissistic or self indulgent at the very least. I certainly can understand this perception. However, I think that taking time to reflect on who I am or what I surround myself with keeps me from dismissing what is important in life; writing helps me from running from anything. My writing centers me. It's what Natalie refers to as "a verification of being human". When I look back at six months of posting daily blogs, I don't know if I see good or bad writing, I simply see honesty. I have been all over the map in terms of topics on which I have written and emotions I have felt. I share myself--for better or for worse--only to acknowledge who I am and to perhaps feel more secure with my place in this world. As Natalie writes of this awareness, "Then, out of this knowledge, we are better equipped to make a choice for beauty, kind consideration, and clear truth".

Am I sharing too much in my writing? Maybe, but I'm not afraid of being hurt. I will, however, write carefully enough when I am blogging so as not to hurt another, for that concerns me, but as for my own self, I am only fearful of being misunderstood or misjudged by what I don't say. There isn't anything on this blog that I would not share on the front page of any newspaper. Be comforted; Be happy for me; I have found my voice through this blog. I am learning to trust it now. It won't be silenced or censored. Natalie writes, "When we walk around Paris, my friend is afraid of being lost and she is very panicky. I don't fear being lost. If I am lost, I am lost. That is all". When I get lost, I write. When I am trying to figure something out, I write. When I want to show my appreciation or when I feel gratitude, I write. This is why I like books on writing. They are manuals not only for getting words down on paper (or on a laptop computer today in the year 2011), they are filled with reminders of what it means to get life out of one's head so it can be lived passionately, sweetly, peacefully, reflectively...richly...fully.

I return to the quote in Natalie Goldberg's book which inspired me to start writing today: "We walk through so many myths of each other and ourselves; we are so thankful when someone sees us for who we are and accepts us". Let's dispel the myths when they are recognized. Let's instead look at each other for who we are, be thankful we have one another, and walk forward together. Let's go further than we think we can. "We can touch the things around us we once thought ugly and see their special detail, the peeling paint and gray of shadows as they are--simply what they are; not bad, just part of the life around us--and love this life because it is ours and in the moment there is nothing better".

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