The Writing Process II, Part 1: Keep It Real

The Process is as rich as there are writers.

I now see that in my earliest years of writing I was mixing and matching, trying on words for size, putting out what I thought sounded good. Of course sounds are what give birth to words, and it is the thrilling privilege of writers to show communication is not only functional but beautiful. But now I am ruthless with Self: tightening, trimming, questioning, challenging, making her say more with less. I still experiment, and sound out my work for the music of language. But I no longer sacrifice style for truth.

In her prolific journaling and letter-writing to those back home a hundred years ago, Irish missionary to India Amy Carmichael asked herself: “Is this true?” Twenty years after I glossed over these three words in her biography they have resurfaced these past few months. In the writing, I ask myself if it’s true. My purpose in the process isn’t to incite a response or rouse an audience. If a word doesn’t quite sit well with me, is not true to myself, I rework it until it imparts intention. I wasn’t looking to be funny or hyperbolic in the posts that earned laughs. They told what I simply felt or saw. I am not out to impress as I am to express. And in the expressing, I am also not the girl emptying angry questions out of an abraded heart anymore. Not because my life is perfect. But because, as many will disagree, if I write primarily for the therapy that it wonderfully can be, it will feel like emotional emesis and not true art. I don’t want to take up your time with personal rehab.

There are sites devoted to the loving memory of a dear one or blogs defined by a persisting pain. Writing is healing, which is in part why I have journaled so extensively over the years. With loving hopes for the people behind such blog, I have connected with them. I didn’t write bereft to broadcast one of the most impossible sorrows I have known. I in fact did not want to be explicit. The journaling already had helped me process the grief. But as I freed the poem to the life it took on, it rehearsed how the world had looked at the time from inside my pain. I had to keep it real. As for creative writing or fiction, I asked myself through every line in Rain Story, “Is this what I see in my head with my spirit?” And so I realize it’s a finer line between journalism and creative writing than appears. I feel very much like a journalist reporting live from what’s inside.

The nascent writer churned out her share of cryptic poetry. Now, I wouldn’t waste anyone’s time purposely being unclear when you’ve come to see what I have to say. I employ metaphors for the 1000 words they save me with their pictures. I’m no longer the high schooler with words welling over in the dark. The journey may start out as an exploration. But at some point before I share it with another sojourner I’ve figured out where North is and have walked the line – without needless acrobatics.

34 thoughts on “The Writing Process II, Part 1: Keep It Real

  1. “I feel very much like a journalist reporting live from what’s inside.”

    I love this. I feel the same way. My own writing has changed the longer I’ve been blogging. Wonder what I’ll think looking back twenty years from now. I do agree that the only good writing comes from staying true to your insides.

  2. Hi Diana, an excellent post that I thoroughly enjoyed. I totally understand and appreciate the sentiment of saying as few words as possible. It seems that the older I get the more emphasis I am putting on being efficient with words as opposed to flowery, although I do admit, now and again I try and be as gratuitously poetic as possible, but just for fun.
    Mark Twain stressed the importance of using the “best word, not it’s second cousin” and Coleridge described the difference between prose and poetry as “prose – words in their best order, poetry – the best words in their best order”
    Thanks again for sharing,
    All the best,
    Mark

  3. There is no doubt in my mind that there is power in words. Words literally ‘hum’ with electricity, when used correctly, and draw the attention of the reader to them over and over again.

    In some cases, the words not only stand out in spectacular fashion to the reader, but they come grouped together and shine with the strength of a small sun; calling the reader’s attention over and over again.

    When I originally read this post, it would be the phrases:

    “My purpose in the process isn’t to incite a response or rouse an audience.”
    “…I don’t try to impress but to express,”

    And in your final line:

    “The journey may start out an exploration, but at some point before I share it with another sojourner I’ve figured out where North is and have walked the line – without needless acrobatics.”

    You say so much about the process of writing, in one sentence… Impressively done.

    It’s an honor and pleasure to know you and your work.

    R.

  4. Wow. I came over to check out what you had to say, and I’m quite humbled. I’ve always taken pride in my writing ability. Your style has been quite a blow to that pride. You have reached a level beyond what I had imagined. Wow.

  5. I enjoyed your thoughtful exploration of writing, one of the greatest joys of my life…
    Your words that you don’t write to impress but to express so exactly mirror my thoughts, and I loved what you said too about the necessity to find the exact, perfect word that really expresses the truth. .
    And yes, i know what you mean about writing being healing, but now at my age, it’s the beauty and the truth and the glory of life that I want to express and to share…

    I wrote a fun piece about writing called ‘writing to survive ‘ somewhere between September and December last year, but am so technologically incompetent I can’t direct you to it as you did for me.,.
    Thank you for connecting, Valerie

    • Valerie, I am thrilled to hear of your rich journey here and how you connected with mine. Thanks so much, really, for your time.

      “it’s the beauty and the truth and the glory of life that I want to express and to share…” A kindred spirit. Hmmm….I would be so interested in your response, then, to my latest post, the finale on the Process, where I call upon writers and artists to think with me.

      I’d love to read the post you have in mind. If there is a search widget on your margin, you can pull it up with a keyword search.

      Hug,
      Diana

  6. Wayf,
    I agree with learned principles of writing as a process. I also see the essence of writing as sharing your interior with others, this isn’t always done cleanly, but it remains essential. Reading people like you continues to challenge my scruffy writing, I like it when some polish rubs off…..thanks for the shine. 🙂
    RR

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