Sunday, January 18, 2015

Writing Lessons

I was the last to read a piece of writing out loud at the meeting of our writers group--our challenge being to write a description. I had rewritten a description of an old friend, originally written as an assignment for a writing course.

Before I started reading I thought I had done a fairly good job of describing her, but as my carefully crafted words left the page and passed through my lips into the air, I felt them sinking to the the ground, lifeless. "She" wasn't in them somehow. I had painted a word picture entitled "Bird of Paradise;" but the soul that had touched my soul and left a lasting imprint, was missing; I knew it; did they?

I finished reading with a combination of embarrassment and relief. It was the end of the evening anyway; I knew my friends needed to head out into the cold January night before it got very much later and I was anxious to end a moment that felt awkward to me.

I looked up from the page with a smile, preparing to conclude our evening, when someone asked, "How did you know her?" 

And over the next ten minutes I told the story of how we met, our growing friendship, some details of her life, and her eventual death. I didn't need a mirror to know that my eyes were shining; my face animated--I saw them reflected in another kind of mirror; those of my listeners. I was so grateful for a second chance to tell them who she was; to honour her memory by bringing her back to life so that others might know her.

The page that I had read lay beside me on the floor, a paper doll in comparison. Where did the difference lie?

It was my third rewriting of that particular description.  Maybe my mistake was in trying to capture her image in a moment of time, rather than by describing her in the context of our lives; I probably just needed to relax and let "her" flow out through my words rather than work so hard at it; I'm not sure.

I am not giving up though! I have written about her elsewhere on this blog and I am glad I have that raw material captured for something more substantial about her in the future. Here is a link to one of the other stories I have written about my dear friend Agnes MacDonald; this one was seven years ago: The Tree by the Cookhouse.

I am grateful for the encouragement of our writers group; The Writers Nest; and the knowledge that it is in writing, possibly being embarrassed and writing again, that we learn to write better--I'm all about that. :)


Susan Starrett said...

I enjoyed hearing of your love for your friend. It was a treat to hear you read something you had written! Like you said, sometimes what we write can fall short of what our heart desires. Reading out loud is the quickest way to find where we, as writers, could do better. I can't wait to hear the new, improved version!

Belinda Burston said...

Dear Susan, Thank you for the encouragement--and the comment!