I stole the phrase for this title from The Miracle is Around the Corner. I’ve read some great words over there. I’ve been told “it’s narcissistic to air my dirty laundry.” I’ve been told it’s passive aggressive. I’ve been told I “write metaphorical poetry to maintain plausible deniability.”
My family and friends don’t read me.
And I can understand how people could be totally confused by little snap-shots of my inner workings. No one post, not even all 692 posts here, give a complete picture of anything. I could write a hundred million words and still paint only the outline of the biggest pieces.
So why bother? I write for me. Like Flannery O’Connor “I don’t know what I think until I read what I have written.” And I write for you. Because maybe the solution I write into will resonate with someone else. I don’t think anyone of us is so unique that our struggles and mistakes, problems and longings aren’t experienced by someone else. It’s the opposite of narcissistic. I don’t need to hide my dirty laundry, I’m not trying to maintain an image of perfection or uniqueness, it’s a constant reminder of how un-superior I am. I have a unique set of talents and abilities-so does every other human being on this planet.
I write metaphorical poetry because sometimes that’s just how my brain works. If I am patient with it and let it take it’s good sweet time it occasionally makes astonishing connections. I love the metaphor of compost. When I accept me as I am, as God made me, and accept the reality of the life I have been given all the ugliest bits can be composted into rich dirt and grow bits of art and beauty. I don’t need to hide my compost pile. They only smell when they don’t get turned to fresh air regularly. Good composting requires oxygen and warmth, moisture but not flooding. And lots of worms and bacteria and fungi. God made composters. He works miracles in a decaying manure pile. Compost is how rocky dirt becomes good soil.
I’ll admit I find a lot of drivel in the blog world. Or I should say, I find a lot of writing I don’t get. Who am I to judge? But I also find a lot of opportunity for connection and inspiration. I get nudged to face the reality of grief and loss. I find great phrases like “solution by blogging.” And because I know writers don’t exactly get much in the way of affirmation for our work I try to give credit where credit is due. If we wanted riches and adoration we wouldn’t be writers. We’d be aspiring actors or reality TV stars. We’d run for office or join a band. We’d self-promote better and charge for our words.
No one becomes a poet out of self-love. We do it out of love for God and the craft itself. We do it because something in our souls, our very deepest most vulnerable selves, is compelled to write poems. It maybe the least glamorous, most under-appreciated and misunderstood art ever. I write poetry because something in me has to write poetry. And most of it really doesn’t have much in the way of metaphor. No, it takes a humility bordering on martyrdom to be a poet. A poem won’t win an academy award. It won’t be hung the wall of a museum or be auctioned at Sothebys.
I am a writer by calling. I don’t know how else to explain it. This was ingrained on my soul at a very young age. I’ve had very little support for this path. And no wonder, it is insane. That stereotype of the starving artist doesn’t come from no where. Not only is it an unsupported path but it often comes with significant pressure to do something more normal, more lucrative, more understood. Get a real job, they say. Study something career oriented. Don’t stay up till all hours writing a piece about not breathing. Don’t give voice to the world’s pain. Don’t let those skeletons out of the closet. Play the game and pretend. Don’t talk about pain and grief, abuse and loss, violence and suffering, anger and fear. Don’t. Just don’t. Don’t talk about growing up a girl in a sexist society. Don’t talk about living close with minority populations and loving those “other” people as dear friends. Don’t talk about being poor and a single mother living in a single-wide. Don’t talk about love and longing and intimacy and sexuality. What are you, a slut? Don’t talk about God and faith and prayer. Don’t confront people with the reality of privilege or stop to examine your own. It makes people uncomfortable to. They don’t want to be uncomfortable. Write only in a tiny little nice girl box with a soft voice and a puppy. Don’t write about twisted relationships or addiction. Be silent. Be silenced.
No. I cannot do that. I know my place. I’ll keep right on writing.
Nonetheless I feel I’ve had more support over the years than many people get. I have had a few friends and teachers encourage me and help me along. They have a special place in my heart for that.
The nice thing about writing publicly, about trying to approach my thoughts as an essay to share, is that I am forced to write to a conclusion. The medium of personal essay on a public blog directs me to write into a solution. The act of sharing can both elicit illuminating comments and feedback and be a release. I don’t have to carry these words alone in the darkness of my own mind anymore. The writing sometimes is the solution. I may be a pitifully small, powerless humbled little specimen of a writer with addiction problems and a host of other flaws people love to remind me of, but I am still one of God’s seven and a half billion children and words have power.