I love watching my little toddler grandchildren work things out. Maybe that block won’t fit in that hole. Maybe the baked beans are touching the chips. Maybe it’s time to go back in the car seat and they figure they’re not ready. And their natural and healthy reaction is to scream about it. This is sometimes quite hard on the adults around them, but having successfully navigated this stage of development themselves, they are able to take a deep breath, summon reservoirs of patience, and help the little red-faced, incandescent bundle of frustration ride out the storm. It’s called being an adult.
Sometimes my writing is like this. You know, when you vomit words across the page, when you hit the keyboard so hard it skitters across your desk, when you forget anything you ever knew about punctuation, spelling, grammar and appropriate use of expletives as you pepper the page with f-bombs.
Just me then?
Somehow, I don’t think so.
Writing is a wonderful way to go back and talk to your younger self who maybe didn’t have the tools then to process the negative inputs around at the time. It’s a fantastic way to spill out on the page, raging ‘GOD, I HATE YOU!' It’s a safe way to ask all those difficult questions, ‘WHY ME LORD?' It’s a holding place to weep copious tears, ‘HOLD ME JESUS, PLEASE!’
It’s between you and God and God, being God and all, can take it.
And then, being the writer that you are, you can go back and craft it. Hone it. Sharpen it. Polish it. Check it.
You control it instead of it controlling you.
And, you know what? You are one step away from the immediacy of those emotions and you are able to work with them. You talk about them rather than from them. And this gives you freedom, freedom to express yourself without alienating your readers who might just be a tad alarmed by your murderous or suicidal intentions.
It turns you from being a victim into being vulnerable. You are not saying ‘RESCUE ME!' You are saying ‘Hey I feel like this. Do you? Well, we’re all in this together!’ It’s a shared experience and you are giving your reader the permission to feel those feelings too. You are offering a gift.
Now I’m not saying that you never share that ‘shitty first draft’ as Anne Lamott so delicately puts it. I’m not saying that you never reveal that raw, visceral emotion to anyone else. I am saying – be circumspect. Look after yourself. Be careful. You might not have the platform of Oprah to share your story, but it can still go a long way if you let it. And sometimes it might just be right to reveal these parts of you to someone else who has flesh and blood and can help you hold the singeing pieces of paper until they burn themselves out. All I am saying, is take five before you share.
Maybe one of the best places to share is as prayer. Not trying to pray ‘about’ it. Pray it. Read it to God. He won’t mind the venom, the pain, the wheedly-whiney decisions you make about not being good enough. He won’t mind that you have fallen out with your relatives or even that you don’t believe in him anymore or that you’re done with religion. He won’t mind that all you want to do is sleep and you really really think he’s forgotten about the world he made with this pandemic stuffing up everyone’s lives, and my own personal bitch of not being able to sing in church.
You know, he won’t mind.
Then – being a writer, go back and rewrite those darned feelings as much as you like. And, if you choose, share it for the world to see.
He made himself both vulnerable and victim.