Tuesday, March 23, 2010


     “It is said that writing is easy. All you have to do is cut your wrist and let it bleed. The story will follow. Interesting analogy when you think about it. The blood in our system is actually blue, it is definitely not red. But when it comes into contact with the air, it turns red.
     "That is what writing is about. Taking that story, those images, those feelings, those experiences within you and letting them out. It can, and probably will be to some extent, painful. Those images, feelings and experiences will not look the same once you’ve released them. Others will see a different color. You will see blue, the real untouched color of blood – and possibly sweat and tears. They will see what everyone in the world acknowledges is blood – and blood is red.
     “We are not talking about the subtle differences between ‘tomato’ and ‘tomato’ or ‘potato’ and ‘potato’. We are talking about the ability of human beings to see the same thing, to read the same words, to witness the same crime and factually, rationally, without bias, see something different.
    "So I ask you, is your story, your story, or theirs? Do you write to release your feelings, insights and view of the world or theirs? When you write the words ‘the end’ you have finished. Your labor is over. The demon has been released. The bloodletting is complete.
     "For them, the pain, the humor, the wonder is just beginning. You have consciously set them on a journey. You’ve put them on a plane and they have no idea where they are going. You’ve basically kidnapped them. The ransom is the price of the story. Only, like most kidnappers, you will not be around to bring them home. You set the top spinning and walk away.
     "Much like grandparents who feed the grandkids tons of sugar, let them run wild and then give them back to their children to take home and put to bed. Your book is the colorful magical parade with bands and elephants. Your readers are the street sweepers who follow behind. What will you leave them?”
     Silence draped the room. But then it always did after she finished her final thoughts for the day. It was a ritual they willingly entered into. The class was set in an amphitheater causing her lectures to be given looking upward. Her five foot runners body would normally have been dwarfed by the raised seating were it not for her low deliberate voice.
    And then, there was the crack and launch as they called it. The one sided smile would crack across her face simultaneously with her left eyebrow launching upwards. The meaning unfolded slowly during the semester. First a quirk, a tick and then came understanding. She took her lectures seriously. She took her art passionately. She took her words prayerfully. The crack and launch was her hand shake. Some even wondered if when the crack and launch occurred she stood before them naked. She reached out and offered her hand, her words, and her soul. Those that got it were inspired. Those that didn’t...didn’t.
     “If writing is like cutting your wrist and letting it bleed, why would you want to write? And what about the world that sees your story, your play, your novel or painting as red instead of blue? ”
     Who would be the first to speak? It felt like God had just created the world, said it was “good” and turning to the angels said, “Well what do you think?”
     A voice ventured an opinion. “I want to think that my life and experiences mean I have something to say. They matter.”
     Silence, Jeez. That was like launching a grenade. There was no crack and launch. All eyes were on her eyes. Would they crucify the bodiless voice? The emperor had no clothes and everyone felt uncomfortable. Those sitting around the voice twitched slowly in their desks, trying to avoid association.
     Her eyes looked upward. The trajectory seemed to be higher than the students’ bodies. What was she looking at? Was she praying for forgiveness for the desire to murder she felt in her heart? Was she considering the options of tenure versus early unplanned retirement if she answered the voice directly?
     “Sometimes.” Her head bent slightly to the right, eyes still looking above them at an invisible target.. “Sometimes.” Her head righted itself, eyes still looking upward. “To have something to say means you have to speak. That’s what you did. The fact that you did speak means it mattered. If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there does it make a noise? It does not matter. Something living is now dead and that matters.”
     Crack and smile. Eye contact. Relief.