Sunday, May 9, 2010

Writing and Reading as Private Acts

I’ve been blogging here for more than a year, and I'm still often surprised to see what posts or articles resonate with people, and what don’t. There have been poems that evoked a major response, and ones that didn’t. There have been posts that received all kinds of comments, and those that didn’t. With very few exceptions, I still can’t predict which will be which.

One exception: if I post a photo of my new grandson, I’ll get a lot of comments. My wife says this is a cheap way to drive traffic, and I should be ashamed. (I’m not.)

But if I look at the posts with the most comments, they do have one thing in common – they tend to lean to the specific and the personal. This isn’t true only for my posts, and there’s a reason why.

In The Right to Write, Julia Cameron says that “it is a great paradox that the more personal, focused and specific your writing becomes, the more universally it communicates.” Cameron doesn’t go into great detail as to why, but I think we all know it anyway: the more personal and specific, the more the writer increases his or her own vulnerability – and it’s that sense of vulnerability that strikes a chord deep within us. In truly great writing, the pretense is gone, the public face has disappeared, and what we see is the exposed human being.

And in that exposed human being, we see ourselves.

We typically read in an intensely private way, regardless of where we’re doing the reading. We connect to the written word in a private way, and we can laugh, cry, cheer, cringe and be offended without anyone around us knowing our feelings. And this works regardless of the form in which we’re reading – ebook, hardback or paperback book, magazine newspaper, brochure – it’s doesn’t really matter.

The written word communicates in a very private and personal way, and the more private and personal the writing (the skill itself is assumed here), the more the words speak to us as if they were our own, reflecting our own experience.

Explanatory Note on 2 Poems

I posted two poems last week – “The Silence Beneath the Trees” and “Country Store” – that prompted some comments on the blog posts and even a few emails. The main question was – what are these a part of? What’s the back story?

The simple answer is that I’m using poetry to help frame a novel. The first draft of the novel is done, and I’m going through a major rewrite, using poetry to help me do that. I didn’t intend to confuse or tease (and I think I did that in some cases). I’ll be talking more about this in future weeks, and posting some additional poems related to the story, with more background provided. But thank you for the comments – they’ve been especially helpful, including the ones that talked about being “chilled” to read "The Silence Beneath the Trees."

Over at the High Calling Blogs, Laura Boggess is leading a discussion of Cameron’s The Right to Write. Take a look and see what others are saying, commenting and posting. Last week’s discussion was about “nurturing our writer.” This week's discussion is about "going deeper."
Monica Sharman's "Details, Details."
Nancy Rosback's "Just Write" at Poems and Prayers.


Louise Gallagher said...

Your words always inspire me, grip me, stir me.

I can't wait to read more!

Unknown said...

Whether it is the written word or the spoken word, when anyone is open and vulnerable I am more drawn to the story or person. Because as you say, "it's that sense of vulnerability that strikes a chord deep within us." It is then that we are real, honest, and it is refreshing to read or see.

S. Etole said...

That is what brings me here each day ... thank you!

Laura said...

This is what spoke to me from this week's readings too (you will see tomorrow!)

And how exciting about your novel! Seems I have quite a bit of good reading to look forward to from HCB members. Please keep me posted.

And you know I love those pictures of your grandson. Nothing like a baby to warm up the heart.

Many blessings.

Red Letter Believers said...

vulnerability is a tough one. I would much rather point out someone else's problem than my own.

Anonymous said...

janet is right about using those chubby-cheeked, cute baby photos to lure us in.

good idea to use poetry to frame the writing of a novel.