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On Writing

Because writing is what I do, I want to write about my week, and yet, growing up boomer, there is a line between private and public that people of my generation respect – unlike the Millennials and after, who believe every bit of their lives is so interesting that whether shopping for broccoli, sharing a medical scan, traveling to the post office to buy five stamps or their dog’s cute tricks is a topic worthy of post and unduly note, showcasing their fascination with self , really an extended selfie.

But I know where to cross the line, I think. Perhaps because my mother always scolded,”Pat, you don’t have to tell everything you know”. No doubt when she was shocked to discover I had revealed some family secret. So over the years, I have tried “ to think before I speak”, another admonishment: that I was less able to contain growing up, my messy emotions unable to avoid censure as I blurted out words I later wished I could have retrieved, for perhaps at the moment, I thought them true, but upon reflection understood them as knives of retaliation, painful daggers of spite, or weapons of wounding. But once released in the cool air of quandary and confrontation , too late discovered they could not be recalled or put to bed. And of course, once my irritation or anger fled, the conflict might have vanished from my imagination, but once flown from my castigating lips, damage inflicted.

These lessons learned or experienced myself have taught me much, and the wonderful thing about writing is editing, revising and rereading before thoughts are released into the atmosphere. I used to tell my students to find fresh or unique ways to express a cliché, make it come alive because a cliché has already lost its pow. Write it in a way to be remembered . Your writing resembles a tapestry, the wool or threads maybe knotted, joined, overlaid on the back, should be smooth and compelling on the outside to be seen, the hard work hidden and the viewer/ reader unaware of the work that has gone into your piece, seamless on front.

I love writing and am so pleased all three of my children commandeer the art and science of expression: almost all in their everyday work as brilliant professionals. And just yesterday one wrote me two pages that touched me deeply about the importance of saying what we feel. It is a treasure.

Words. This week words made my experiences real, palpable, words I would have preferred not to write them, but as my son discovered – therapeutic ( much like my knitting). Writing helps the writer. The act of thinking through what goes on paper is an activity that separates you from the actual event, causing you to stand outside it, frame and describe it so it can be communicated beyond your own head into the medium of a screen or paper. The words stand alone, beyond your body, transformed by your mind, to speak a certain truth, even though it comes from your personal truth, tinged with a personal perspective, but opened to others’ interpretations much like a good piece of visual art that draws you in, makes you think so it becomes your own, you transformed by a new thought you might not have had previously, opening your head to a new way of viewing life. The puzzle, the “ aha” moment when suddenly, it all makes sense, or something that had not occurred to you taps you on the shoulder and your eyes open wider. You gasp, refreshed,” why didn’t I see that before”. Or as the Millennials and even my eight year old grandson piques, OMG!!!!

So I write and in venues where my experience is appropriately told, I will tell it, helping me through my ordeal.

In this new world, as in my writing, I stand outside of myself, made alien to my before life, not unlike my writing where the objective words extend distance. This is good to put it outside, lessening the burden of keeping all the nastiness inside ourselves. My words are separate from me, yet part of me. They can be manipulated, as I now am. They can coolly portray what is still a miasma of emotions. They can be wise, dark, fearful, ironic, even wise or funny which signify the essence of who I like to think myself to be. They stand alone. Somewhere they will persist. It is their beauty.

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