Thursday, January 24, 2013

Silence is Key

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Writing allows for catharsis. It gives us an opportunity to stand apart, to inspect our experiences and moments from an objective, third-party eye. Rather than just experiencing the moment with that visceral, first-hand, what-on-earth-is-going-on perspective, we get to ask questions: what circumstances led up to this moment? How did I react? Why did I react that way? What did I say, how did my expressions change? Did I gasp, start, raise my eyebrows? What was the angle of the sun-slant through the window? What shoes did I wear--why did I pick that pair? Was I sitting, legs-crossed, or standing, hands on my hips, mad and alert?

But why does writing down these seemingly meaningless details relieve the tension? How does recording the moment expunge it from our soul--if not completely erasing it, at least making it easier to bear?

Countless people journal, keep diaries, blog, write poetry, short stories, novels. Perhaps it is simply the mechanic motion of the pencil on paper, the rhythmic flow and scrape of the pen-point, or the ratta-tat of the keyboard, offering some soothing therapy. Yet I think the answer is something else: the key is in those questions. Writing gives us a chance to pick up a moment as if it were an object in the closet of our minds. Flip it around, turn it over, take the batteries out and peer at the insides--what's going on in there? We can break the moment down and recreate it again. And in the breaking down of the tiniest details--from the angle of the light to the lipstick you wore that day--we can find a tiny moment of meaning. The lighting can be a metaphor. Or the way you write a scene--adding imagery or dialogue--can connect your mind to your reader, drawing them into the moment. The moment, then, can be about truth and connection rather than just a confused jumble of firsthand emotion.

But then--here's the kicker.

Something happened--years ago--and you can't write about it. You've picked up your pen...more times than you can count. You close your eyes and pull the day back up to the light. And you start your record--"once upon a time" "in the beginning there was." And then you stop. You realize you've got it all wrong. You know full and well that the event happened on a roasting summer day. You  distinctly remember wearing black and that dark shade being too oppressive for the heat raged that day. You remember sweating and the skin flaking on your shoulders later, burned from standing outside even for those scant minutes. Yet, as you sit and recall, you start to shiver, and you know, you know down to your core, that you were so cold that day. Why else would you remember goosebumps and shaking? How does that coincide with the truth--the August heat and sunburn.

My memory isn't flawed, in this instance. The real obstacle is this: I don't want to write about this experience. While I understand that writing provides an outlet, a release, and a way to take a bad experience and render it something good--a short story or poem capable of reaching out to another--I don't want to write  about that day. I don't want to write about the sun on my shoulders, the grass under my feet, the papers clenched in my fist, or the black sheath dress that I loved, but after that day, crumpled and threw away.

The simple truth is this: sometimes, writing isn't always the answer. Some things need to remain wrapped up and hidden. Not because I don't want to deal with them or because I can't handle them. But rather, because they are done and, now, should be left to lie undisturbed, at rest. Its just simply time to lay it down, turn away, and walk down the path laid out ahead.

And that, my friends, was a very hard lesson for the writer in me to learn.

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