Hidden deep within the writing process is a powerful tool for social change.
I know; that statement can’t be substantiated. But let’s try on the idea for a moment.
If you’ve ever penned your thoughts or memories or imaginings, you know that the writing process surprises you. Writers say they write to find out what they think. The process of writing is revelatory. We see differently for having written. This is “re-vision”, even if you’re just writing a journal or first draft.
If you’ve ever stuck with a project through many significant drafts, you know that the revelations keep coming. As you change the story, the story changes you. A work changes its “own conclusion by virtue of being written,” as Nuala O’Faolin said of her memoir. “I was not at all the same person, when I handed the manuscript to the publisher, as I had been when I began.” Approached with a heart open to transformation, the writing process is personally transformative.
We all know that effective literature changes readers’ hearts and minds. The basic ingredient that allows the reader to be moved is the writer’s capacity to be moved. “No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader,” as Robert Frost said. So the writer’s transformation is intricately entwined with the reader’s transformation.
Yes, the blog or story or essay that goes out into the world is an instrument of social change, but it’s not, I believe, the most effective one. What is really, sneakily powerful is our participation in developing the human capacity for revision. Because every time we step back from our writing and see it in a radically new way, we exercise our revision muscle. We learn to detach ourselves from one draft, play and explore and invent, and then out of old material create something new. We grow in our capacity to be unattached agents of change. We move from being reactive to co-creative. And, if you’re willing to think broadly, we actively participate in the evolution of consciousness.
The real power-players today aren’t those who hold the big, external positions of leadership. They are the people who are calm, creative, able to step away from events, see them clearly, imagine new ways to frame them, and launch fearlessly back into that good work. They are willing to see both the big picture and the details. They are undaunted by the slow pace of creation. They love the process more than the product. They are people whose hearts are open to change, who create from that vulnerable, open place.
Writers, our strength rests in our capacity to revise. Let’s nurture that strength, then use it boldly.
Interested in learning about spiritual memoir? I’m giving a brief introductory workshop this Thursday evening from 6-9 p.m. at Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality.
Want to stay calm and conscious through your activism work? Consider attending this day on Guardianship: A Critical Responsibility for Our Times on February 10th. I’ll offer the journal as a tool for recording, reflecting, being transformed, and strengthening agency.
The Spiritual Memoir drop-in sessions at Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality continue on second Fridays from 1:30-3:30.
February 10: Cultivating Love
March 10: Holy Resistance
April 14: Living the Questions
May 12: The Natural World
June 9: Looking Back, Seeing Again
SAVE THE DATES: