Sunday, April 22, 2007

Thoughts on Writing

Does it make me feel good to write about my mother?

Is it all about power and control?

Does writing about my mother mean I do not love or respect her?

Should I stop now, never another word? Keep my thoughts to myself, never publish any unflattering portrait?

The first person who comes to mind when I ask these questions is Jeanine. She has been furious with me for what I’ve written at times- and has deeply supported my work. It would be great if our lives were singsong perfect all the time. It would be a disservice to everyone who is married.

It’s not the truth.

I recently read a book by Lynn Freed about writing. She notes the problem with false voice and the writer. Being safe leaves us with terrible art.

From Lynn Freed’s, Reading, Writing and Leaving Home:

“The danger for all art in all this lies in what one might call the Forrest Gump school of literary endeavor- a cheery little rainbow lens that deems the good “safe” and the bad “dysfunctional,” all in a world in which we are surrounded by “choices” if we could open our eyes and see them…

In the face of all this, I would plead loudly for sticking to the trouble of life- or, rather, to the truth of the trouble of life. What other duty can a writer have? In a culture rendered terrifyingly glib by the rhetoric of lying, one must grasp on to the truth with both hands- embracing what cannot be solved, asking questions to which there can be no answers.”

I am heartbroken and hurt by people’s criticism. I want to be loved and accepted. I wrote such drivel for years trying to find the middle road. My first novel was an attempt at creating a perfect vision of what I wished my life was like. It lacked edge, but more? It lacked a true voice.

This past year, I have written in a true voice. The blog has forced me to write daily. I stopped writing for an audience. No, I stopped writing for my mother.

Lynn Freed, again, speaks to this:

“Writers seem to suffer more than most in wanting to be loved, or, perhaps, in wanting to be admired (which I suppose, amounts to the same thing). At least they want this until they discover that the only way truly to be loved and/or admired is to find their own way, forgetting the audience. Longing for an audience and therefore guaranteeing none is, perhaps, the greatest curse of the writer.”

Do I feel good about what I write about my mother? Sometimes. When I write about our playful banter, and remember her love of my kids, it feels good. The painful, less pretty pictures? I lived those moments. It does not feel good. I feel raw and exposed.

Is it about power and control? It is about my truth, my voice. Life is messy. I will not close my doors and shutter my windows so no one can see. I am not ashamed. I grew up with the outer face, inner reality. It made me crazy and suicidal.

Do I not love and respect my mother? I loved my mother deeply. She knew it. She loved me deeply, too. I know it. That’s all that matters. I was the only one who could cut so deeply a wound in her; she was the only one who could cut so deeply a wound in me.

Will I stop writing about it? No.

Lynn Freed, again:

“Is it any surprise then, particularly at the outset, that the interested public will rail against a writer who holds up too bruising a mirror? Burn her books on the village green? Shun her in public places? Punish her family for having nurtured such a viper in the first place? And yet, still, still there is a strong case to be made for taking on the living. Apart from the fact that it is braver to do so, it is also better for the art.”

And even as I write this? I realize I have hidden behind Ms. Freed. I have used her words, not my own, to justify my work.

See? See? She says I’m doing the right thing. And she’s SOMEBODY.

I know writing this will drive a deep wedge. I don’t respect anyone, I don’t care about anyone but myself, I am selfish, self-centered and self-absorbed.

I am finding my own way, my own voice. I no longer crave an audience or acceptance. It will never come. I speak my messy truth because it is my messy truth- no one else can claim it. Is that about power and control? Perhaps. I am not afraid anymore. That is a powerful feeling. I am in control- no secrets hide in dark corners of my mind. I remember the beautiful and the unthinkable. Nothing holds me against the floor anymore.

I know not writing this will eat at me, tear at my insides. Bullied again. Again, I let the family secrets win. Shhh. Stay quiet. Sit up straight. Smile.

Don’t tell, my father would whisper to me. Your mother will get mad.

So be it.


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