Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Getting To Know Me (Myself and I)

There are two elements to writing that make it exciting and compelling for those of us who love to do it. First of all, there is the feeling that writing is a kind of therapy, that by writing down emotions, feelings and thoughts, we are releasing those feelings. Writing as therapy isn't necessarily good writing or writing that should be published; it's part of that free writing, that first-draft writing that we do to get started, to find the true starting point of our story.
Secondly, there is the sense that we are learning about ourselves while we write that story. Since we are in control of what we write and how it will sound in print, usually what we know and what we learn about ourselves is obvious. There are times, however, when another reader, a stranger, reveals something new, something shocking (in a good or bad way).
I recently had an editor do an evaluation on a book I've written because I needed a stranger - someone who doesn't know me or my story and has no need to be "nice" in her critique - to put a critical eye to my work, particularly the opening 50 pages. Of all the comments and suggestions she made, one is slowly working its way through my consciousness, as a writer but also as a person. When listing the parts of my story that marked my strongest writing, she included "setting". She wanted to know more about the places about which I was writing and said she sensed setting is essential to me.
I did not know this about myself. When I was living in Vancouver, I spoke to my mother almost every day on the phone and she once commented that likely I was the only person in Canada who didn't talk about the weather. Have you noticed how many conversations around here open with a weather comment? No wonder my small talk sucks! I don't mind rain, sun, snow storms, wind; it doesn't seem to affect my mood or outlook so perhaps that's why it doesn't occur to me to talk about it. But what I notice is how the snow is blanketing the field behind the house or how the mist makes the woods look so pretty, how the river winds away from the road in a particular spot (and less about how the road winds!) and how the trees in our front yard bend but never break in high winds.
when I was in Vancouver, I longed for open spaces and quiet and water. I had to move East, to the setting of my childhood vacations, to find peace. I had to be in a particular setting to be happy in my heart.
So thanks to this editor, I have a new characteristic about myself to examine. And another mystery - why don't I talk about the weather? - solved.

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