“Let the world burn through you.
Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper”~Ray Bradbury.
The other day I heard Oprah say something that clicked. For those who don’t know, Oprah did not have the picture perfect upbringing surrounded by a loving supportive family. Her childhood included molestation and rape, and a teenage pregnancy. She said that she has never had a day of counseling, that her TV show was her therapy. If you think about it, that’s not a bad deal! Instead of paying $125 an hour to pour your heart out to a professional, you get paid $$$$$ an hour to talk to huge worldwide audiences!
That thought clicked with me, since there are many who espouse writing as therapy. Nursing students are often given reflective journal activities, to help them to work through their experiences and grow from them. Part of the recovery process for those with substance abuse issues is to write, a daily log of good times and bad times, to help work through the battle of resisting the urge to return to familiar but harmful habits. So we can all write.
I remember reading of a beautiful Buddhist practice, a way to communicate with departed souls. They say if you wish to send them a message, write it on a piece of paper, then set the page on fire. The message is carried up to the heavens in the smoke. Why not? In the days before emails and social media, we were often encouraged to write an angry letter to those who had upset us, but never mail it. It helped us to burn off that frustration and move on. Unfortunately, in today’s electronic world, many do not use the delete button to clear the screen of bitterness, and hurtful words are sent out into cyberspace for all to see.
But a writer sees the world differently. All experiences whether good or bad can be fodder for a chapter, a verse or a Friday Morning Message! In the midst of a troubling situation, the recognition of the kernel of an idea is enough to put things into perspective. When I traveled from England earlier this year, I had a fifteen minute window of possible panic. As I handed my documents over the airline counter, my resident alien card went flying, and was nowhere to be found. While I waited for the maintenance people to arrive and tear up the floor, I knew that regardless of whether the story had a happy ending or required an extended trip and other complications, at some point the story would appear in a Friday Morning Message!
Writers are good listeners. They never know when a friend or a stranger will provide them with the basis of a character or a plot. So be warned! On the one hand, they will listen keenly as you pour out your tales of personal distress; on the other, don’t be surprised to see it appear in some form or shape! Hopefully no one will have to sue for libel! I heard once that a famous writer couldn’t go home after the publication of her first ‘novel’. There were too many people who recognized their personal stories in her book!
Many who knew my father think of him as an orator. He told his stories from the pulpit, from the stage, and in quiet one on ones. But he collected stories as he went, jotting down notes on the go. He was never without pen and paper, for he did not trust himself to remember accurately. He loved the turn of phrase, and in particular, he loved the language of Jamaica. Unfortunately he did not see himself as a writer, so we have mostly his scribbled notes to see his process. Even after he had moved back to Wales, his notes include little Jamaican phrases. One that inspired me a few weeks ago included the reminder that nothing is secure, or as he wrote “Everything crash”, an echo of a song written during a string of strikes in Jamaica years ago.
Writers are good storytellers; it is how they practice their ideas. Writers love words, they are always hunting for new ways to say old concepts. Writers read, they read to see what works and what doesn’t. They read to be inspired by the lyrical works of others.
But above all, writers write. They write to vent, they write to entertain, and they write to advocate for those whose voices are not often heard. The other day I heard an interview with a man whose 50 year prison sentence for murder was commuted, a man who was wrongly convicted. After 20 years he said that the lesson he had learned in prison was to “be quick to listen, and slow to speak.” The best writers are often quick to write, but slow to publish as they write and rewrite their best work.
This weekend I hope you will think about your words, whether spoken or written. We can all stand to think a second longer before unleashing our message on the world. We can all find a better way to say things. We can all hit the delete button instead of letting our careless phrases spread negativity. We can all choose to focus on the positive, make the best of bad situations, and try to see the funny side of life’s frustrations.
Have a wonderful weekend Family!