Writers mustn’t become too mesmerized by words. They aren’t actually real in the way we sometimes think they are. The word “anger” isn’t real, only the feeling it is meant to name is real. The feeling itself isn’t the word, just as a tree isn’t actually “a tree,” it is only that thing of wood and leaves growing in our yard. A small distinction perhaps, but one of the writer’s jobs is to claim the world back from the words we have attached to it and to name this world again. It is the writer’s job to feel the story she is trying to tell without words and then find those words that match what she is feeling. This is sometimes called originality but it is really just honesty. Everyone is original. Look around you – even those we call identical twins have their differences, have their originality. But not everyone, it seems, is willing to be honest.
I have been dishonest in my life far more than I have been honest. My dishonesty was never malicious, however, nor outrageous. Usually, it was in deference to tribal loyalty, reciting when I would have rather been speaking. To speak, I feared, was to be cast out onto the savannah with the lions and hyenas. There is safety in agreement, after all, even when we are agreeing to be afraid.
This kind of safety will eventually wear thin. There is no real warmth to be found away from the fire of what you know to be true. To see that light and feel that heat and name it for yourself is to offer it to others, not so they would use your words as well – though some will – but so that they might see life new for a moment, and remember their world belongs to them.
Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.