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.