To be known by another person–to meet and talk freely on the page–to be close despite distance. To escape from anonymity and be our own sweet selves and express the music of our souls.
“How to Write a Letter,” Garrison Keillor
We work so hard on our blog posts. We think about the big themes we want to interpret. We write about books and what they mean in today’s world. We interpret prompts, and we present real-life issues. We advocate and we recommend, and we coach and we support. We reveal, and we suggest.
It’s good. It’s wonderful, in fact, and our voices merge and blend and we create something amazing, a greater whole from our sum parts.
But every once in a while, it’s nice, isn’t it, to just write from where–and who–we are?
This week I went chasing for a prompt, or a theme. I was taken, at a talk last weekend, by the thought that what we accept as history–as real, immutable fact–is often a distortion…or maybe, not even based in truth at all.
What IS history? I thought perhaps I could write about that.
I wrestled with that subject, but somehow it just seemed too weighty, too scholarly. I’d need to do research. I’d need to get the opinions of people far more learned than I.
I’d be writing, in essence, a kind of research paper, and this week,–ah, THIS week–I just wasn’t up to that.
So I went scrolling through WordPress’s daily prompts, and there I found ‘generous.’ And that same theme turned up on a ‘prompt-your-writing’ message I get in my email, and, so: THERE, I thought: that’s the ticket.
I have (you’ll be surprised to learn…) quite definite opinions on what the real meaning of ‘generous’ is, and that definition has more to do with the giving of time, and the giving of kindness, and the gift of really, really listening with all your heart, than it does with donating the money to have a hall built in one’s honor. I started writing about REAL generosity, but it was like grabbing a wriggling fish. I’d think I had a firm grasp on the topic, and then it would writhe away.
I’d look at what I’d written and I would think, Oh, no. NO. That’s not saying it AT ALL.
In the meantime, though, I couldn’t keep my eyes away from the window. Outside the wind was whipping thrillingly, and leaves were plastering onto glass and pavement. Acorns were falling and exploding. Squirrels scrambled and deer hustled, and the first real cold day of autumn was unfolding with a roar and a drench and a howl. It made me want to run outside; and when I did, the changeable, exciting weather sent me running back inside to cook.
And that finally, is what I wound up writing–not a weighty, thoughtful treatise on the scholarship of history, or a morally uplifting essay about what it really means to give wholeheartedly. I needed, this week, to write about the comfort provided by baking a pie on a cold, season-changing day.
That’s what Garrison Keillor advises us to do in his lovely essay on letter writing. He says to reach out to the person we want to touch, and let them know where we are, who we are, how we are. Paint a picture:
I am sitting in the kitchen, tapping on my IPad, as the oven warms up so I can put the chicken in. The house is cluttered and the dog is antsy and Jim has an idea in his head for a story that won’t let him rest. And the sky is gray, and a serious black cloud is scudding toward us, and I think it’s a great night for a pot of mac and cheese.
Sometimes, we need to write the right now, not the lofty thought or the future tense, but the who-I-am, where-I-am, why-I-am, right now.
Because aren’t our blogs, really, a kind of letter to the world? And don’t we hope that kindred spirits will stumble on our posts, cry out with delight, hit ‘follow’ and stay with us on the journey?
It’s important,–it IS,–that we say the things we have shown up to say. People of passion, writers with firm principles, we share our urgent beliefs with the world. And we enlarge the discussion; we introduce our fresh voices; we move things a little further along the continuum.
But every once in a while, we need to honor the persons we are behind the voices we present. Every once in a while, we need to write from exactly where we are.
Where are you this week? I’d love to hear your story.
Happy blogging, my friends!
(“How to Write a Letter,” by Garrison Keillor, academic.luzerne.edu)