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Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Writing lessons from a 3-year-old

As I face what feel like increasingly scary blank pages, all the more frustrating because I always assumed that the more you write, the more confident you will be in your writing, I’m reminded of a lesson my 3-year-old cousin taught me this summer. When I first arrived on Martha’s Vineyard, which was also I believe his first day, he would freak out every time my uncle’s dog came outside. He’d run to hide inside and wouldn’t come out until she’d gone back inside. They were staying in separate houses, but next door to each other. Over the course of my visit, I noticed that he got increasingly calmer when the dog was around. He’d realized, and been shown, that if he was calm around her, she actually wasn’t so bad, just a big, lumbering friendly dog. I even saw him pet her, and it was like he was in awe that this being he’d been so afraid of could be so fun. His face still lit up, but this time with fascination.

That’s kindof how it is with me and writing. It’s so scary, from afar, all these to do lists items. I am so certain I will never get through them, or they’ll suck, or not be what I wanted them to be originally. Probably, on that last point, they won’t be, because what piece of writing ever is exactly how you envision it? But then I dive in, and I realize that it’s always such a relief to get through it, to go into the fire and realize it’s not actually a fire at all, just words, some good, some not as good, but all part of the process. Far better to have tried than to have simply “written” drafts in my head and let the ideas die there. Lately I don’t embrace the act of writing with open arms; it’s more like being dragged to it, and then sometimes in the middle, I catch myself marveling at what is pouring forth. It’s often the most unlikely scenes and conclusions, ideas I didn’t know I had buried somewhere inside. It’s those I’m most scared of, clearly, but also those I need to let come out, or be haunted by them. And maybe, like with my cousin, they’ll be all the more satisfying for having feared them, and written through the fear.

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