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From The Writer as an Artist, Pat Schneider
“I listen to women coming back to writing for the first time since they left English classes. I hear them trying to sound like Tennyson, Emerson, T. S. Eliot, or some other half-remembered (almost always male) literary model trying to write, not guessing that the rhythms of the language they heard spoken at the kitchen table by their own mothers and fathers are what hold the power of art for them.
Writing is talking. It is hunkering down around the cave fire at night and telling about the day. And, however it may be disguised, close to the center of the first stories we will want to tell is fear. We will tell about the hunt, the animal at
The mouth of the cave, the fear that made the mother’s arms strong as she protected the child….At times, fear keeps us from writing at all, keeps us from writing as truly, clearly, brilliantly as we might.
The first and greatest fear that blocks us as artists is fear of the truth we may discover. … Writing, like dreaming, sometimes tells us what we are not ready to hear.
For the writer, fear arises in exact proportion to the treasure that lies shimmering between the dragon’s feet. If you are greatly afraid, there is nothing great to fear. But it’ already there, in the unconscious. Writing does not create it.
The purest and deepest reservoir of material for the writer is his or her own childhood. Most writers beginning or returning after a long time away from writing instinctively go to childhood images. This is not accidental, nor is it self-indulgent.
Accept yourself as a writer and know that you are not alone. Understand that all our memories are already fictions. Write it first, fix it later. Don’t let the fear of reactions of others keep you from the fist draft (you can always change things later.)
When we are writing, the disconnections are as important as the connections. One image triggers another.
Our best, our deepest ideas often do not come to us first. We have to follow a kind of trail, allow images to come and go, sketch as visual artists sketch, until we get to the picture that holds us, that will not let us go.”
A journal is private. It is safe. It is a place where language can flow free of editors, critics, teachers, and well-meaning but ruinous relatives and friends. In a journal, thought and feeling can come together without self-consciousness. I learn more about the true voice of a writer when he or she is reading a journal entry than I do in countless attempts at some form; because of the root of writing is our own speech.