Monday, November 5, 2012

Risk


This morning has been a good work morning. The time change agrees with my writing habits. I try to get up at 7:00 a.m. most days, and to be at my desk somewhere between 8-9 -- a wide range, I realize, but I need serious slow coffee time most mornings before I ease into my work. The last few weeks that plan has failed miserably, however, because the combination of cold and dark is too much for me. I stay under the flannel sheets until the sun comes up.

I’m pretty happy with what I’m working on this morning. The problem is that none of it is something I feel comfortable publishing on the internet. Today is the kind of day where everything that is pressing on my mind has some intensely personal twist to it. It’s that whole philosophy and life thing, again. No separation.

Writing is risky. Writing publicly even more so, especially if you plan to take positions you know others will disagree with. You risk scrutiny, to be sure, and you risk being misunderstood. Harder still, you risk damaging relationships when your opinions differ sharply from those you care about.

I think a lot about how to navigate my own friendships with care and respect. As a writer, I am aware of the stereotype that you have to watch yourself around me because I might “put you in a book” someday. While life is my greatest resource as a writer, I don’t go around taking notes on everyone in my life each day, planning how I can utilize you for my own gain. The people in my life inevitably inspire my work, but it’s usually by accident, and never when I expect it. I am not trying to use you, nor am I trying to insult you.

And so, I hesitate to write about certain things because I don’t want to hurt or offend people I love. This is true when I write about theology and feminism, or when I write about politics (how obvious it would be to write a post today about voting! but no, not this time). It’s also true when I write about more accessible topics having to do with life and love. I have a lot of great material just sitting in my compost pile for now, because it’s going to be about ten years before I feel I can safely share it. The time constraint is partially for myself; as a writer, I need distance. Often I draft things shortly after the events that inspired me, to capture the raw emotion, to trap the intensity. Just this morning I read through pages and pages of drafts from the past six months and was surprised at the strength of the raw material. I am only just beginning to have enough distance from that material to start to shape it into something more artful. It will be years before that work can truly succeed, I think, and certainly before it can be offered up for public consumption. I need that distance from my own experiences, and -- even if I change identifying details -- many of the stories I want to tell need to be told at a few steps remove for the sake of their characters, as well.

So I seek space. And I wander around that space, looking for something to say right here, right now. None of what I’ve worked on today (except this reflection on process that you’re reading now) will be published anytime soon.

Sometimes it is risk enough to go certain places in my own mind, to put certain words on paper and admit them to myself. With time, they might grow into something more, but for now I will let the page hold them.

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