Philip Schultz, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, wrote in the Sept. 4, 2011 New York Times, that to learn to read and write is the human effort to find a way to be less alone.
For the writer, the craft is just that–a way to reach out, to connect with others, to take all those images and ideas that swirl around in the head and get them out, drag them into the light of day, and pointing, say here, here I am…. come sit beside me.
Like most complex forms of communication, writing entails some rules, some structure–you have to be a member of the club, know its conventions and symbols, in order to benefit. And acquiring the tools to send and receive messages in the written medium is vitally important. Which is why teaching writing often seems to be a painstaking process of working with people to help them clarify what they’ve written, to make it conform to conventions. In the process, I sometimes see students flinch. It’s because every time I point something out that needs correcting, they are not only experiencing the pain of trial and error, but also the real fear that they are somehow being ejected from the club–that their overture of connectivity is being rejected.
Writing is an emotionally fraught experience because, as Schultz points out, it involves not only an admission of our need for one another, but also the fear that we might be left alone.