Why can’t I stop writing? | Part 2 of 2
If you missed my first answer to the question, it’s right here.
Why can’t I stop writing? – Answer #2
First, a confession. I used to tell seminary students to be ready to tell their personal stories about growing up male or growing up female. Not literally everything, but true stories, especially about what happened to and inside them along the way from there to here.
Why? Because it’s rude to expect people to answer our questions about them if we’re not ready to answer them about ourselves. We also need to listen without rushing to judgment. Who knows? We might discover more connections than we expect.
However (here’s the confession), I couldn’t yet tell or even listen to my story in this way. I feared someone I didn’t know or trust would ask what it was like for me to grow up female. Back then, my privacy firewall was miles high, buttressed by shame, guilt and fear.
When I felt a twinge of guilt, I reminded myself that I was the professor. I wasn’t subject to the dynamics my students dealt with in their ministry settings. Besides, if someone needed a professional counselor, I had several colleagues who could listen to them and make referrals. This was about them, not about me!
Ironically, I’m finally taking seriously the challenge I gave my students. I’m telling my story, as fully as I’m able on any given day. Not because it’s a fascinating read, but because it matters for reasons stated here.
I don’t rehearse the chronological roll-out of my life. Instead, I focus on concrete things that happened to and inside me, and why they’re significant today. There’s a story with a theme and a context. I’m still discovering how to tell it and how to make connections that matter.
Sometimes I feel as though I’m walking a tightrope. Sometimes I am. In practice, it means I begin with private writing. The kind I just dump on the page. It doesn’t matter if I fall off the tightrope.
I practice private writing regularly. It helps me name, describe and later think about events that impact me. Especially when they catch me off guard so that I’m still reeling from the shock of whatever just happened or didn’t happen.
Private writing lets me be honest with myself and honest with language. The words I dump out are whatever they are. They don’t necessarily tell the truth about the situation, or the full truth about me.
They do, however, contain truth. All those over-the-top words, and ballpoint pen marks that almost pierce the paper with anger or grief are important. They’re markers. Clues. Truth staring back at me. Could I have been THAT angry? Indeed. Just look at this page and what’s staring me in the face.
I dialogue with myself and on paper about what I see on the page. Or what I find in my heart, or hear in my anguish and tears. I note when I’m teary or sobbing. Sometimes I stop and let the tears flow. Or do deep breathing. I note that, too.
Does this sound compulsive? Not to me. It’s part of who I am.
As I grew up, I didn’t keep a written journal. It never even crossed my mind. I began writing sporadically about myself when I started to fall apart in the late 1980s. I began in earnest when I started working with a psychotherapist in the early 1990s.
I’m still at it. I don’t go back to read every fraught word I’ve ever written. I do, however, still practice telling the truth to myself and to God. Though this blog is public, I don’t write about everything as though I were keeping a daily public journal. I filter it, sometimes wordsmith it to smithereens, and present it to you in whatever format I decide to use.
Why? Because I can’t stop writing! Besides, my story is still in process. Simple, isn’t it?
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 February 2015