Thursday, April 19, 2012

Writing As Curiosity and Healing

Over the many years that it took to birth Each Other I see now that I was sparked by two things: curiosity and a desire to present my words and ideas, bringing alive my findings if you will, in a creative manner of self-healing. For me, writing is a creative form of therapy and personal growth.  I can identify with writers who express the difficulty of self-criticism, that inner voice that arises to question one’s skill, the scratchy inner voice that asks, "Do you really think that you can write?"

Who knew that at the time I started my first drafts of the book until now, we'd move into a world where I can share ideas before or after my work day with whoever decides to read it worldwide on the internet. When I started Each Other in the mid-1990s, around 1995, we didn't have cell phones or the internet to work with and a few years later when one of my friends had a "mobile phone" it was the size of a large woman's shoe, not pocket-sized like today. I had my share of rejection over the years through several drafts but with each rejection I felt more determined to believe in my characters, the story woven through actual historical events and the belief that I could write, despite the critical voices in my own head. My biggest rejection letter inspired me to rewrite the entire book in first person from its original version in third-person and I think that it created a much stronger story.

As a very visual learner and interpreter, I first saw the scenes of the story in my head as if in a film and then interpreted those ‘scenes’ into words and paragraphs as a translator would to put them down on paper for later editing. Writing fearlessly as described here is a method of trusting the creative process and quieting the noisy voices within oneself to let the characters and the time period shape the chapters. My curiosity led me to study the social and political climate of 1862 in detail: the weather the troops faced, their uniforms, the herbs used to heal, the events of the day such as the passage of the Homestead Act and the Emancipation Proclamation and the daily life of pumping water from a well, chopping wood to heat it and finally washing the dishes with that water. My experience living in a cabin in Maine as an 18-year-old many years ago, helped me to make those descriptions come to life.

I’ve been very fortunate to have an adventurous life with many unusual experiences and it is those life experiences that I drew on to build my story. Contrary to a quiet life of research and writing, my research and writing time was built into the multitasking that I had to do to raise one son and help raise four stepsons, work full-time for 27 of the last 30 years in classrooms and libraries and more, and in the midst of all that, go to grad school.

Now in the hectic time that is 2012, 150 years after 1862, I am reminded of the value of finding balance and slowing down the day whenever possible. Your comments?

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