Saturday, March 06, 2010

Why I Need to Keep Writing

I haven't blogged here in a long time, but I am up late and it feels exhilirating to venture in here again. Tomorrow I dive into several days of fulltime rewrite, as I am now -- glory be! -- an agented novelist. Hopefully, I'll finish this puppy up before the month is out.

I've been thinking a lot about shame, anxiety, despair -- the usual villains. But a couple of weeks ago I did a reading where there were a lot of young people who had a lot of pain. And at this reading they were able to stand up and share their pain and be acknowledged. I was moved by the importance of this -- far beyond teaching people to write. When it was my turn, I shared poems about Dad instead of the funny stuff I'd planned to read. Some of them still make me shake a little, even after all this time. But I wanted to share something that opened me up, that touched my pain, but ended on a note of redemption.

And I realized once again that I want to write and read redemptive work -- to write my sorrow and anger, yes, but also my hope and Who my hope comes from.

The other night my brother was painting a grim picture of Christianity -- it was a religion of darkness, vengeance, coercion and abuse -- and he had the Bible stories to prove it. And I didn't want to argue, because I found myself frozen. What he describes is not what I believe. But what I believe felt so private and tender at that moment -- I didn't want to open it to ridicule.

All I have against such an attack (and I don't think he meant it to hurt me) is my work. If God has given me the ability to sometiomes access that deep place through words on a page, and if I have hope in my life as well as pain, and if my honesty -- which is both blessing and curse to me -- goes into my writing, then I need to QUIT HIDING inside my shame and come out.

I want to let kids know that there is resurrection -- that it is part of the fabric of the universe; that it is woven into their cells. And I'm suddenly struck by the fact that they don't know that -- that regardless of their religion, a lot of kids are running around without hope; they don't know that life comes out of death -- they believe there is nothing but darkness.

I have an interview on Monday and I've been dreading it. It's about my work-in-progress, which has to do with parental suicide. And I've felt weird about it being a "therapy" book for me, and weird about embarrassing my parents and weird about still feeling weird. But there are kids who are locked in their despair and who need a key. Can't I tell them that it will get better? That their life is essential to someone--to themselves? That their parents will mellow, become sweet, that they will love them almost more than they can bear?

When I talk about this, my prose becomes purple, but that's what anonymity is for. I write for the girl who needed the book when I was sixteen. I write for the girl, or boy, who needs it now.