Tidying my desk on a Sunday afternoon. I’m thinking about the question I asked yesterday. As we move through life, why does it matter that we ‘tell about it’ with words, specifically with writing? And when I say ‘we’, I mean ‘I’ as much as anyone; maybe more than anyone. Holding that thought, I pick up one of the books on my desk, ‘Writing With Power‘, by Peter Elbow. It’s a craft book, and a good one. But one of the most interesting chapters isn’t about writing, it’s about sharing writing.
This is what he says about sharing. “The essential human act at the heart of writing is the act of giving. There’s something implacable and irreducible about it: handing something to someone because you want her to have it; not asking for anything in return; and if it is a gift of yourself – as writing always is – risking that she won’t like or even accept it.”
Sharing takes courage and assertiveness, says Elbow. It’s not about asking for feedback or criticism or approval or permission to continue. “The point is that you are heard. It opens up a door for you and somehow helps you think of more things to write.”
And I’d add this: when you share your writing, you stand by your words. You take responsibility for them and say – literally, if you are reading them aloud – ‘this is what I have to say.’ That’s a big deal. As Elbow says: “When you only make marks silently on paper and don’t make noises with your throat, it is possible to withhold some piece of your self, to keep your fingers crossed behind your back.”
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