The shamelessness of the writer

Oh, my, oh my, what have I done ? After writing the last post, I remembered I had already began working on a draft about one of the experiences I reported : the scene at my aunt’s apartment, when the soldier came to deliver my cousin’s effects. Somewhere, I had seen a line recommending writers to write about their first experience with death. So, I dug that file out, put on my critique’s hat, got the machete out, and started reading and revising. And almost immediately, a thought struck me ; here I am, using a very painful event for my family, something that happened almost 40 years ago, and yet, my aunt wore black clothes up until recently( when she started wearing grayish colors again), my aunt who could never dust the portrait of her son smiling in his uniform, the last picture that was taken of him, without tearing up. So, here I’m using this and turning it into a writing exercise !!! How moral, or rather, how immoral is that ?

It reminded me of something I read a while ago about Truman Capote. I’m pretty sure it was him, even though I can’t recall the title of the book. The essence of what I remember is that he had very few friends because he used everything and everyone around him in his writing. He just couldn’t imagine not doing so. And I just found another quote in Bonnie Friedman’s Writing Past Dark. The quote is from the Tao Te Ching : “Care about people’s approval/and you will be their prisoner.” Another quote from Friedman’s book, by Charles McGrathe, when he was an editor at The New Yorker : ” If you want to be a writer, somewhere along the line you’re going to have to hurt somebody. When that time comes, you go ahead and do it.” Mm. Even for a blog ? But of course, it’s not only for the blog. I’m writing because I feel the need to write. Because I can’t think about anything else, basically. I mean, I do : every day, I go about the business of living, of bringing up two kids, etc, but I can’t help looking at everything and everyone, wondering whether I can use it or them in my writing. It’s like a disease. Or rather, an obsession.

And as I write these words, I realize that I’d better stop writing about the fact that I want to write, and start actually WRITING. So enough of that. Well, no, I’ll add a last quote from Friedman’s book about writer’s block, in a chapter aptly titled “Anorexia of Language”: “I could not write until I could risk appearing ugly.” … “When I embraced imperfection, silence dissolved. The inner absolutist, the fanatic mistress of restraint who, suffering, defines herself through refusal, at last departed, or rather receded into me, which is of course where she’d come from in the first place…”


3 thoughts on “The shamelessness of the writer

  1. Love those quotes, Katia. I don’t think writers are shameless at all. The reason we have a consciousness is so we can reflect on our human experience. And who does that better than writers, for they are not just willing to reflect, but to share reflections as well adding to the wealth and richness of the experience we call life. So let’s abandon lady restraint to her own devices and and be proud of what we do…Dying to hear your experience fictionalized. BTW, S said there’s nothing ‘flat’ about how you related them the first time and I had that same reaction when I read them too. 😉

  2. Thks, Jay. Done.Rilla, dear, this is a perfect example of how easy it is to look at the same glass, and see if half full, or half empty. As you may have noticed by now, I tend to see it half empty. Or at least, that’s how I usually start seeing it. Thank goodness, I now have ways, tricks and more, to help me reverse this negative streak. You’ll notice that, shame or not, tortured thoughts or not, I still went ahead 🙂 You – and S – can maybe better understand what I meant, when I said the first version was flat.

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