Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A little self-reflection is a good thing

For ENGL 646

Creating a list to answer the question “why do I write” didn’t work. Lists are for work; things to do and cross off. “Why do I write” requires sentences and paragraphs.

Why do I write? The quote “my job is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable” makes me giddy when I use it to explain why. I want to connect to people, to evoke empathy and to make them squirm. Fiction holds up a mirror to the world with all the black and white and shades of grey present in real life. Escapism is valid, but it is better when you can escape into an ideal of how the world should be. Most of the fiction I write is escapism—science fiction, fantasy, mystery—and I’m not ashamed of that. The world needs idealism.

I have been made ashamed before. I started writing stories down when I was eleven-years-old, mostly reworking books I had read. Richard Peck’s ghost stories enamored me, and I created my own psychic protagonist trying to deal with the evil things that go bump in the night (had Ghost Whisperer beat by a few decades). That series no longer exists because I went to a church-sponsored youth retreat that convinced me that writing about psychics was Satan’s work. So the good little Christian that I was burned those stories and cried. No surprise that I later opted out of organized religion.

Teaching of writing should avoid making any child feel ashamed of what they write. Plenty of people out in the world will fill the position. Janet Emig’s essay stressed the positive points for writing as a function of learning, but overall, I wasn’t impressed by it. I know I learn by writing, so I don’t need to have it proved to me with scientific studies. Yes, I know, academics need studies.

The strongest resonance with Natalie Goldberg is her stance of writing through pain. I can’t point to the section in the finished novel, but I remember riding a bus to my car after spending the day at work and watching the World Trade Center buildings fall and feeling so numb as the bus TV was set to even more news. I pulled out my manuscript and wrote, suddenly blitzing through a scene that had given me so much trouble. I could control the words, even if I didn’t understand anything else taking place.

Read Free!
The BookWorm


Progress Bar from Writertopia


Progress Bar from Writertopia

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