Monday, November 12, 2012

A World without Reading or Writing


Cue theme music to any horror film. How dare I write such a blasphemous title for this post.
But seriously, I did this, I took time to imagine what it would feel like not to be surrounded with words. Looking back, there was one period of my life when we didn’t own a home computer as we waited, in transition mode, to be assigned our territory. This period stretched on for a year. But I also had a newborn and was fully entrenched in survival mode so I’m not sure I can count this year.

Who would I be if suddenly the director of the show Hoarders decided I owned too many books and he sent his crew to barge in to cart them all away (wah!)? Who would I be if suddenly my brain clenched and I ceased writing the entertaining twists and turns my characters love to take?

No doubt I’d be crabbier, perhaps I’d overcompensate on the social front—but mostly I think I’d go mad.

Why bother exploring a world like this—a world void of words? Two reasons:

1. I’m playing with the idea of creating an illiterate character and I want to climb inside his shoes.

2. Last night I read this in Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones (in the chapter titled, “We Are Not the Poem”)

“Don’t identify too strongly with your work. Stay fluid behind those black-and-white words. They are not you. They were a great moment going through you. A moment you were awake enough to write down and capture.”

 
Smash number one and number two together and you get something that might shock book lovers and writers everywhere. It’s something I’m still letting seep inside my mind. While we’ll forever be responsible for our words, I’m beginning to grasp the reality they don’t encapsulate who we are in entirety. Yes, words are valuable and they can be hugely important. In fact, I believe words possess the power to be revolutionary and it’s a privilege to be able to read and write as so many of us do without giving it a second thought.

Here’s something I’m going to work hard to remember though as I write to make impact with the world…my words are separate from who I am. They “capture moments I’ve been awake enough to write." They may help keep me sane, fill a passion within, meaningfully reach readers, or enrich my life in innumerable ways, but without them I’d go on. Or at least I think I would. ;-)

Have you ever considered who you’d be in the absence of reading or writing?
*photo by stock.XCHNG

 

13 comments:

  1. Ack! No, I can't imagine. Definitely CRABBIER though.

    Have you read The Book Thief? such a thoughtprovoking book on the power of words.

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  2. Um. NOPE.

    I saw the title to your post and my jaw dropped. I have a very holy thing I tell myself, that Jesus is the WORD and the world was created with Words, therefore Words will never cease to exist. *grin*

    I refuse to consider the question of your post (ha!), but I will say that The Book Thief is one of my all-time FAVORITE books. :-)

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    1. We're on the same page with The Book Thief. Hear where you're coming from with the Word. Felt it was something interesting to explore...especially if I intend to go ahead and write this illiterate character.

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  3. Wow, no, not really. I think I'd always be doing writing on some level, if only just letters to family and friends. I think I'd be crabbier too. :)

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    1. Reflecting on my own question, I'm pushed to consider how reading and writing have changed me. Would I be that different without. And absolutely I believe I'd answer yes, but I'm also seeing Goldberg's point about the moments. Sifting through this one myself.

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  4. A few months back my husband asked me this dreaded question: "If this book doesn't get published, will you quit?" (FYI, he was looking for a No.) But something strange happened when he asked that question. I started to feel panicky - I couldn't imagine quitting. I couldn't imagine NOT writing. The fear bothered me for a long time - I mean, what if God did ask me to give it up, had I idolized writing above God? Then I had a conversation with a non-writing friend last week (we share the love of history) and she said someone challenged her ability in her job as a historic site manager and she had a panic attack, because the challenged threatened her identity. I realized the same had happened when my husband asked me that question - writing is part of my identity - without it, I would have to go back to the drawing board of "who" I am. I'm still working through this one with God, because I know He doesn't want me to define myself with things of this Earth, but I can't help believing that He did, indeed, make me a writer. But if He took it away, I would still be a Child of God, which is far more important and really at the heart of "who" I am. I'm just happy He also asks me to write.

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    1. I think ultimately that is where this post was born--how much authors tie themselves to their work and how personally we can invest in it. In many ways it's difficult for me to see myself separate from my work, but I'm beginning to see value in that perspective--challenging myself in that way. You hit upon something with the word identity.

      I think some of my favorite advice is from earlier in this chapter I referred to in this post (and it might sound contradictory, but I'm not so sure it is) "It is important to remember we are not the poem. People will react however they want; and if you write poetry, get used to no reaction at all. But that's okay. The power is always in the act of writing. Come back to that again and again and again." (Those last two sentences speaking to me loudest.)

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  5. I actually took a break from writing and from reading fiction for about a year. It was difficult, but it was good for me. I learned that I can't let my writing pursuits define me.

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    1. Yes, I think this is valuable. Something I've considered b/c of my intense personality--how I can dive so deeply in I forget to swim to the surface every once in a while.

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  6. No. Just no. Especially with regards to reading. I read every day. Life is unimaginable without reading!! I've had periods of little writing--mainly when the kids were young--and I survived, but I never, never had a period without reading!

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    1. I hear ya on the no just no! Reading and writing often feel like a drug. I swear the endorphins are flying when I'm doing either or. Just like to challenge myself sometimes when I begin to think something is too important.

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  7. I knew this girl in high school who thought my love for reading was insane. I mean, she thought it was great, but she, personally, didn't like reading at all, and I could never for the life of me fathom why. Reading and writing has always been a part of who I am, but I guess when you're not specifically made for those skills and interests it's not really a big deal to live without them. But, I just couldn't. Words and stories have always entranced me and I honestly believe God gave me those interests for a reason.

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