A few nights ago I received my copy of The Victorian Writer in the mail and for the first time since high school, a piece of writing made me weep (I can’t actually recall the title of the book that moved me so much back then, I just remember its effects – strange how memory works – but that’s another post). What I was reading was so raw and brutally real that all I could do was cry. Even when all I wanted to do was look away or put the piece down or just forget. That struggling was there. That grappling too. That inner wrestle that the writer was having with herself was all right there on the page in her words and beneath them. For me to read. A fellow writer but, even more simply than that, a fellow comrade in suffering.
The piece I’m referring to is Andee Jones’ The Tribute; a memoir piece inspired by a 20 minute creative writing exercise to write about ‘How to talk to…’. And it wasn’t so much the content itself of the piece that set me off as it was the relatability of it. Here was a fellow writer, usually extraordinarily articulate – both with the written and spoken word – who had also studied psychology (Jones is a retired psychologist), and yet she was grappling – and obviously so – with how best to express arguably her most significant life event. “I sat here for 20 minutes,” says Jones of the exercise, “and couldn’t [write] anything.” The experience that she was trying to exorcise from herself and onto the page was just too damn large and difficult and confronting to translate into any kind of even semi communicable form. It was like the task of writing about the experience was more difficult than the experience itself – perhaps the word I’m looking for here is more real. Continue reading