Sunday, June 29, 2008
"Hang tight," I say to my children when I want them to wait a minute, to friends before they embark on scary undertakings, to myself nearly every day. "Hang tight."
Hanging tight has turned out to be a less-than-successful strategy, and I'm ready to loosen my grip.
As I once thought good writers followed every rule of good grammar, I once believed I could find something to hold on to, some person or some truth or even some pretty lie that would let me grasp reality tightly enough to shield myself from it.
I have wanted certainty like a barefoot woman walking on broken glass wants shoes.
In a series of posts and comments on her blog, Nothing Is Wasted on the Writer, Crescent Dragonwagon wrote this in reference to the writing process:
A) accepting that anxiety and uncertainty are part of the ticket in, and
B) learning to acknowledge such feelings yet not be stopped by them; to gradually see fear as a partner, rather than an enemy bristling with weaponry.
Mark Twain is often quoted as saying that courage is the mastery of fear, not the absence of it. Mastery is a pretty tall order, a lot like certainty. I prefer Ambrose Redmoon's approach, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than one's fear.”
In this case, "something more important" is telling the stories that burn inside me, the ones that reach through my dreams and wake me with a voice demanding, "Write this. Write this story."
In a brief essay, Why I Write, Pam Houston says:
"Above all the other reasons, I write because the world is both heartbreakingly sad and heartbreakingly joyful, and the only way for me to bear the pain, the only way for me to bear the world's bright beauty is to catch it up like a giggling baby and to set it down in front of you, gently, honestly, in words."
"To set it down...gently" takes an open hand. I'm working on it.
* Drawing by Karen Edgar