Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Courage to Write About It

By Gail Kittleson

In these late summer days, I've been reading Searching For Stones by M. Scott Peck. His books have taught me so much, but it's been years since I read his work.He reminds readers of the value of making meaning of things through writing. And that fits with what a participant in a memoir writing class shared yesterday.
She read an account of her younger brother, one of those "lost" folks who never discovered his passion, or if he did, lacked the discipline to pursue it. He flitted from one job to another, one woman to another, and in the process, lost his health. 
Sometimes I get down about having taken so long to get to what I was meant to do all along. But there are worse things. You can live your whole life without even discovering what that is. 
What struck me yesterday is my writing friend's pluck to tackle this painful facet of her life, because it hurts to watch a loved one miss out. Someone who was meant to grow into healthy adulthood, function and contribute to society, doesn't. 
This older sister certainly tried to help, but there's only so much she could do. Still, she stayed in touch with her brother and attended a recent birthday party for him. That hurt, too, to see him broken and old before his time. 
But she found the courage to write about it. She used dialogue to begin her work, which fulfilled the assignment for the week. But from there, she employed several other techniques to express her pain. Not that she ever mentioned her pain--she showed it to us, made it real through description and vivid pictures. 
Hers was a kind of brave poetry that reeled us in and reproduced in us her emotional reaction. We were pretty quiet when she finished—her writing made meaning.
This retired woman has led a busy life, but still says yes to a lot of community volunteer work. And she takes time to make meaning of what's going on. That's what memoir writing is all about. 
Professor Keating in Dead Poets Society had it right: “We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”  
This writer in our little class is alive—more alive for having processed her experience through the written word. Writing it down released sadness, encouraged clarity, and to us listeners, brought understanding. It doesn't get better than that! 

After teaching English as a Second Language and expository writing, Gail enjoys her family (married 35 years, two children and two delightful grandchildren) and writing. Her nonfiction (Catching Up With Daylight/WhiteFire Publishing, August 2013) and fiction (World War II era) share a consistent theme—empowerment.


H. Kirk Rainer said...

Thank you for sharing of your friend's dealing with her pain. So in this cause (for writing) is the possible remedy that:

"The act of writing is an act of optimism. You would not take the trouble to do it if you felt it didn't matter."
- Edward Albee

Gail Kittleson said...

Absolutely, Kirk. So you could exchange "if you felt it didn't matter." for "if you didn't believe it would make a difference." Right?

What's interesting is I'm not sure we consciously consider this when we feel badly about something and choose to write about it - in fact, we may see ourselves as so down, we're hopeless. But according to Albee, the very act of writing about it belies that opinion.

Cool! Thanks for sharing.


Marilyn said...

Gail, I love this piece. Writing does give meaning. Sometimes it's the only place we can find it.
Thank you.

Caroline said...

Gail, I too waited till after my boys were raised to begin seriously writing fiction. I told my husband is was now or never, but I've always known I was a writer. Why did I wait so long? Sometimes I wonder, but as a dear writing friend of mine & I were saying today, perhaps we needed to learn some things before we could begin. Whatever, can't change the past; I'm just going to enjoy getting as many books out as I can! :) Thanks for the post, and so glad to meet you here.

Gail Kittleson said...

Thanks Marilyn and Caroline. Glad we're all in this together!