Carol A. Hand
I haven’t had much time to write today. It was car maintenance day, which means an interstate trip to the Toyota Service Center in Wisconsin. It’s really not as far as it sounds. But the low bridge over the St. Louis Bay that drains into Lake Superior and separates Minnesota and Wisconsin is closed due to construction.
Photo: Duluth, MN – Bong Bridge
It meant I had to use the high bridge – the one that often triggers my vertigo.
Photo: Duluth, MN – Blatnik Bridge
As I grip the steering wheel, I look straight ahead. Still, my knuckles turn white from the frantic grip, but even that doesn’t stop the wheels from wiggling on the steel grating of the bridge. At least it wasn’t raining, and the wind was calm.
Routine maintenance done, I’m just not inspired to complete today’s writing assignment.
“Search your stats for a post idea”
I do sometimes check to see which of my posts receive the most visits. I checked again today. It is somewhat surprising that the two posts that have continued to be viewed most often both deal with discrimination, but in very different ways. One describes my experiences teaching diversity classes in different contexts and includes a detailed description of one of the assignments that was particularly effective for encouraging self-awareness and raising awareness about privilege and prejudice (Context Matters when Teaching Diversity). The other is an analysis of an exchange on Facebook about Native American issues (Circle the Wagons – The Natives Are Restless). These two posts are far and above the most popular in terms of views, but not necessarily in terms of likes or comments.
If my purpose in blogging were merely to have my work viewed by a large silent audience, I might consider expanding on these posts, but the truth is that’s not why I write and blog. The post that best describes why I write, A Darkened Auditorium, was posted about the same time as “Circle the Wagons.” Although one of my favorites, it has received very few views over the years. A brief excerpt explains why I write …
“ … my career [as a singer] abruptly ended one evening as I was finishing my practice session in the auditorium. As I was kneeling to put my guitar into its case, a voice from the back of the darkened auditorium caused me to pause. “YOU DON’T SING FOR PEOPLE!” As I peered out at the row of seats, I could barely make out the darker shadow of someone seated in the very back of the room. The dark shadow rose and walked into the slightly lighter aisle. I could see the middle-aged white priest in his vestments. He repeated his words, “You don’t sing for people.” Then he turned and walked out without another word. It was the last time I ever sang on a stage. I diplomatically resigned from my weekend job, packed my guitar away, and didn’t open the case again for many years….
“This priest was a stranger. How did he know how to craft strategic word-weapons to wound a stranger so deeply? And why would anyone ever do so?
“I have never found the answers to those questions, but I did make the decision that night not to share the songs in my heart with strangers again with such naïve vulnerability. I don’t regret that decision. The priest’s unkind words didn’t silence the songs in my heart. The songs patiently bided their time, looking for other ways to emerge.
“Years later, I remember those words every time I teach a class or speak in public, and every time I post a new essay on a blog or send out a manuscript for editing and peer review. I ask myself “Is this true? Does it come from my heart or my ego?” As a singer, I both did and did not sing for people. I sang because there was a song in my heart that needed to be given voice, and I hoped for people and hearts that would listen and sing back their songs. It’s the same with writing. I write because there is a story that won’t let me rest until it is spoken. Once written, it only comes to life if others read it and join me in dialogue. Dialogue is like the voices of a choir adding harmony and counterpoint, depth and breadth, dissonance and resolution, to the stories that unite us in our shared humanity. Yet even if dialogue doesn’t come immediately, I know that I have contributed what I can to touch the hearts of others.”
I have done my best to write to prompts during the past few weeks. Yet, squeezing the stories that urgently needed to be written into daily prompts of someone else’s choosing was not always comfortable for me. It’s only been doable because I made a commitment to experiment with different ways of writing. I’ve done that to the best of my ability. The same tenacity that helped me as I crossed the bridge this morning sustained me through the challenge of writing to what sometimes felt like a darkened auditorium.
I’m thankful for all that I’ve learned in the process. There have been other rewards as well. I’ve met fascinating people and gifted artists and writers. I’ve also received incredibly helpful feedback that has already inspired me to continue working on the book that has been biding its time to emerge.
I’m truly grateful to all of my Writing 101 colleagues and all of the friends I’ve met in this virtual community who have helped me expand my knowledge and enriched my life by sharing knowledge, stories and dreams. Chi miigwetch [Ojibwe thank you] to you all.
Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.