Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Are we what we write?

Do we become what we write?

This notion had arisen in my reading and conversations several times lately.

I know that I write sometimes to discover what I think. Does that, in turn, determine who I am and who I become? 

Exploring life's unfolding in writing is a treasured treatment for what ails us,  a magic code ring for what puzzles us,  and a refuge from that which would otherwise, perhaps, defeat us.

In my Teacher Leadership in Teaching  Digital Writing  Class with Troy Hicks and several Columbus Area Writing Project teachers this past Sunday evening, the question arose, As we write or contribute and participate online, are we creating ourselves? Are we creating new identities?  Several of us who blog then wondered Who are we as bloggers? Does the writing change us?

According to G. Lynn Nelson in the introduction  to his book Writing and Being: Taking Back Our Lives Through the Power of Language, "writing is a tool for intellectual, psycological, and spiritual growth."  He goes on to say that we cannot,"study language and writing in isolation, apart from the people who speak and write, and apart  from what happens when people speak and write. Apart from our being."

"Every person is born into a life as a blank page--and every person leaves life as a full book...we ..weave life events into narrative and interpret  everything that happens through the veil of the story.", says 
Christina Baldwin in the preface to Storycatcher: Making Sense of our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story.

So maybe in a sense we do, indeed, write ourselves, our stories and our relationships into being.

I am currently reading and thoroughly enjoying a rather uniquely written dissertation, Seeing Red-- A Pedagogy of Parallax: An Estolary Bildungsroman on Artful Scholarly Inquiry by Pauline Sameshima. In this epistolary novel, doctoral student Julia,  writes letters, sometimes subtly steamy, to her advisor, Red. Woven into those letters, are also her theories and research about teacher education, as well as the mosaics she creates, and bits about her life outside of her studies.

One concept explored throughout Julia's letters is that she believes she is being created as she creates.  At one point the she writes:

As we perform, paint, write music or poetry or fiction, we are conveying complex ideas and often these ideas are the complex parts of ourselves we are coming to understand as we are creating.

Julia also wonders how personal identity influences who we are as teachers, and also, on a separate note, if the growing love she feels for her advisor is created as they write back and forth. (We only read her letters not his.  We can only infer his responses.) 

So I wonder then --Did Anne  Frank become the Anne Frank that we know, as she wrote her teenage entries in her diary, as she explored her relationships with her sister Margot,  as she fantasized about  boys, as she negotiated life with her parents and her small  world in the attic-- and the larger world in her head?

Did Anais Nin create herself in her diary?  Did Sylvia Plath write Sylvia Plath into being through  her journals and other writings?

I took this question into my own past notebooks and journals--Did I create myself as I wrote?

I have always named each volume in which I write.  It seems even the names signify  a creating of a specific self in a specific time.
From my 1981  journal:
 ....I begin a new book and renew life...many things were not present when I arrived at the beginning of the previous volume, Collages....saw fragments in my life.. Piece by piece the fragments are falling into position to form  a complete--a new Lifeframe.  
Did I write into being  a more complete self?
An excerpt from  the opening  entry of the 2003 volume, Ancient Paths, in which I was recounting lessons from Returning, the previous volume, :
First of alI, I have begun to learn and experience the secret of contentment and the joy that can not be taken away... ..the older I get --the less time I am willing to waste on petty, trivial and unnecessary drama, disruption and disorder.
Did I write myself to a greater contentment?
From my current volume, Deeper Writing,
Sometimes poetic phrases  are written as healing balms, providing space to say the things we all want to say;at other times, the reader is simply being led through the landscape of Everywoman's life; at still other moments they are meant to serve as maps for discovery of hidden treasure, windows into the inner heart, and all else that we can't discern with our eyes alone.

Did I/ Do I write myself into new understandings?  

Do I write myself into being? 

Do we create ourselves as we write?

Do we become what we write?

Today's Deeper Writing Possibility

Today try freewriting about yourself for 10 minutes.

Begin to  simply write without a preconceived notion about where the writing will go or what you intend to say. This writing can take any form that emerges.

Who are you in this writing?
Who did you "become" in the writing?

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