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Monday, September 6, 2010

Writing Is Its Own Reward

Today I read an article by Parker Palmer addressing the writer's calling and the skills required, as he has experienced it (Christian Century, Sept. 7, 2010). His comments added another layer to the subject of writing as a calling, which has been something I've pondered over for the past several months. I ask myself if it is a legitimate reason for moving away from overt activism and devoting time to my writing. The votes aren't all in yet, but I believe the answer will be a strong Yes.

I never was very good at vigils or marches. My legs grew weary, my muscles began to ache, I was either very cold or very hot, or even very wet on rainy days. My concentration waned as my physical condition became more pronounced. Yet it was possible to write a poem or an article or letter to the paper voicing strong opinions (which often got me into trouble!), and my old bones did not ache from the effort. Sometimes words are as powerful in their way as actions, I have concluded.

My decision to move in the direction of the computer vs. the street has been a source of satisfaction and fulfillment so far for me, and I find as each day passes, the layer of guilt that nearly suffocated me at times for letting go of so many fine causes through my active participation has thinned out to mere gauze. Still there, but it does not nag. I think this is one of the unstated points Parker Palmer was making in his article: that we allow our words to be instruments for good.

This wrestling with the "to be or to do" dilemma now brings me to the first of what I hope to be an effective effort to draw attention to the evils of our world and push us to adopt new attitudes, through the power of the written word. This, in point, is my book Rachel's Children: Surviving the Second World War, due out very soon by All Things That Matters Press. I was drawn to that publisher at first because of the name, and have since discovered what a wonderful caring and professional group they are who work there. Deb and Phil Harris, the publishers, have many credits to show for their efforts, and they have developed a sense of community surrounding their authors to bolster our spirits and provide good advice on marketing what we have written. So I look forward now with great excitement to seeing my very own book put together collaboratively by them and by me, in its design.

To write about the consequences of war, Rachel's Children is a document that required a lot of discipline by me to stay on topic. Contributors brought varied perspectives to their stories. History was expressed in personal ways that a broad and academic study of such a war might overlook in the attempt to present sweeping accounts of strategy and statistics. These collected stories are what happened to children who now as adults remember that time in retrospect and wisdom gained from that experience.

To illustrate, here is an excerpt from the book explaining the background for the book:

"Children are repositories of the world’s memories. In times of war, they absorb through their senses the tastes, smells, sounds, sights and feel of fear, of terror, of violence, of the deepest pangs of hunger. These memories sink deep into the very cells of their small bodies, to affect them years later in a variety of expressions. The stories contained in this collection reflect the memories of those who spent their childhood in the turbulent times of what is commonly known as World War II. For many, the experience was one which defined loss for them: Of family members, of pets, of homes, or simply of a way of life which had seemed safe and predictable."

And a poem commentary:

we cannot live forever in that time
life refuses to indulge our memories
yet we know and we remember

so that grandchildren will be witnesses

to our stories

1 comment:

  1. great post, jean! It calls to mind the articles I have been reading about Eli Wiesel and his position on 'witnessing' as the main function of literature.