Monday, December 9, 1996

Dear Friend

Dear Friend, what's the time? Is this really the borderline? Does it really mean so much to you? Are you afraid, or is it true?

During those stressful moments during the day when chaos is buzzing all around, I'll often take a quiet moment to look at a picture that my friend gave to me that she took during her family's visit down to the Florida Keys a few years back. The photograph is of a magnificent sunset over the ocean, a perfect picture from a perfect eye.

It always comforts me to look at the picture because it calms me as I can almost hear the ocean waves, and it reminds me of far away places and all that is out there away from cubicles, beeping phones, pagers, computers and staff meetings. It also calms me because I am seeing things through my friend's eyes, the way she sees, her unique way of looking at things, and like she often does when I am around her or talking to her, it reminds me of what our relationship is about, a shared sense of what is truly important.

That the picture means so much to me is rather ironic. I'm not exactly what you would call a picture type guy (or picturesque type guy for that matter). I won't get into my theory here about photographs creating false memories for people. Whenever I hear that a picture is worth a hundred words, I always say I'll take the words. A couple weeks back the Stillwater Gazette ran an article I wrote about the election. Along side my article they ran a photo of me. Mixed emotions? My backwards journey into the world of journalism juxtaposed with the memory of having spent the past few years plotting on how I could destroy all photographic evidence of my existence so all that remained behind were the words...

Still it wasn't too surprising to me that the people who read my article commented more on the picture than the story. Others talked about how my experiences either did or did not match their own and wondered why I didn't mention them personally in the article.. People only can read things or understand things on their own terms. In many ways that is the most difficult thing about writing; the process requires solitude and it is a task to get the words to express or convey something inside that you're not even clear what it is. Good writing straddles the line between thought and emotion. Fall on one side and you get into sentimentality. Fall on the other and you get sterile analysis. If you are a good enough writer the reader will look past your ignorance and your insecurities and appreciate your insight or the images and emotions the words convey. To share that with another means to hope they understand on some level what you have written and often being disappointed because they may have had the same experience but never the same emotion.

Tell someone else your troubles or triumphs and they will inevitably tell you of an experience that is supposed to be similar or in relationship to whatever it is you have told them. A good writer is like a good friend. Good writing requires good listening- listening not only to how people talk, but to what they share with you. None of us individually have experienced what collectively we all have experienced. But it is not an equal tradeoff. To write is to write about what you know. When you write you have to filter it through your own experiences and knowledge. In return you know that most people probably won't respond to the ideas or emotions but you only can hope you can get through to someone out there even if that someone is thousands of miles away.

You learn to get around this by understanding that getting the writing out is often more important than the piece itself. My writing does not define me, it defines a part of me. Thus whenever someone asks me if it is hard to share my writing with others I try to explain that no, because what I write isn't me it is something separate from me and letting others see it is often times the very point.

I've seen people cry because of my writing and I've seen people chuckle at something I wrote. I've written myself into trouble and written myself out of trouble. When I read some of the stuff I've written for this publication, the pieces I like are not the ones that are necessarily well written or even informative; rather it's the few that convey honestly somehow something that was there when I wrote it. That's always a difficult accomplishment. It is frustrating to be unable to express something you want or need to express. Words can fail you at the worst moments. So this week even if the words aren't there, our thoughts truly are with a friend who is facing a difficult time. A good heart survives.

Dear Friend, throw the wine. I'm in love with a friend of mine. Really truly, young and newly wed. Are you a fool, or is it true?

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