Why Is Writing So Hard? Reason #756

It was Mary Ann’s turn to read her story to the group. She stood up, took a deep breath and started. “The bottle was my friend for a long time.”

She looked up and took in the group of about 10 students and me, all listening intently, and following along on our copies of her story.

“I’ve been in AA for 12 years, but before that…” her voice broke, and she stopped reading.

Once again, she looked around at all of us. “I don’t know what’s the matter with me, today,” she said. “I’ve told this story a thousand times. Some of you have heard me tell it. I don’t know why I can’t read it.”

Well, one of the reasons (#756) that writing is so hard is that the story gets set in stone. When you tell a story, you can shape it for the occasion and the audience. Mary Ann will tell her story one way at an AA meeting, but when she starts to tell her boss for the first time, she gets to see his reaction to the first few words; that will tell her how, or if, she should continue.

In class that day, Mary Ann, for the first time, found herself trapped by the solidity of print. Her story was set, and no matter how we reacted to “the bottle was my friend,” she could not get out of having written it.

I asked her if she wanted to continue, or if she’d like someone else to read it for her.

“No,” she said, “I can do it.”

And she did.

So here’s to writers of all kinds, who write in spite of #756, and who, like Mary Ann, find the courage to send their words out into the world.

3 thoughts on “Why Is Writing So Hard? Reason #756

  1. Pingback: Learning from Our Mistakes | Working in Adult Literacy

  2. Not exactly a reply barbara but what the post made me think of was imagine a world where we have time and the smarts to really listen to folks around us – what a difference in their lives – I’ll bet Mary Ann can tell the story of the day she first read her work out loud – it was a big event in which she came out smelling like a rose – and what a difference in our lives, the listeners. We have been entrusted with an insight and a view of one small piece of her life. Imagine a world where all teachers of children and adults had the encourgaement and circumstances to listen and congratulate students on each of these hurdles.

  3. I’m with Mary Ann! I have a standard bio-blurb that I include in the legal information pamphlets that I write. When I created it , it seemed important to include the salient facts about me to demystifying lawyers some and to be congruent with my unlearning oppression work (I am a 60ish fat white cisgendered lawyer with visible and invisible disabilities who was raised christian and working class…she is a survivor of abuse…”) That blub has come back to hit me in the face many times. I haven’t gone so far as to change the existing covers but as I replace them I am taking it out.
    And now this post…LOL
    Makes me think about disclosure, when how what and why, both as a teacher/lawyer and as a learner…The reason I put the info in in the first place is because it serves to contradict somewhat the power ascribed to lawyers in this society. What do you all think about disclosing things about yourself to your learners?

love to hear your ideas or experiences!

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