Whew, that scene still gives me chills TWELVE YEARS LATER. HOW HAS IT BEEN TWELVE YEARS?! When I heard the line I’m about to present, it instantly made me think of The Joker in The Dark Knight telling various versions of his, “Want to know how I got these scars?” monologue. So, so good.
Anyway, that scene brings to mind a line I saw (and forgive me as I now forget who I saw post it on Twitter) by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish from his poem, “Under Siege,” which goes:
Writing wounds without a trace of blood.
The American Scholar called Darwish the “prince of poets,” for being the voice of the Palestinian people, not just of their political struggles, but for shining a light on the “rhythms of daily life.” Darwish seems important enough where I could do an entire blog post on him, and I may soon do so a poetry analysis using one of his poems, but for the purposes of this post, I’m most interested in that particular line, especially given the motto I use for this blog: “All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” That comes from Hemingway.
That’s how I view writing. Even fiction writing since a lot of our real life experiences bleed into our fiction stories, but also because fiction is just as much a vehicle to reflect real life in general as non-fiction is. But I’m mostly thinking of creative non-fiction writing. If you’re not acting as a doctor examining your open wounds, then I’m not sure you’re doing it right. Creative non-fiction should hold nothing back, as far as I am concerned. We all have a tendency to want to make ourselves the wonderful protagonist, but that’s not the purpose of creative non-fiction. The purpose of creative non-fiction is to tell truths, and unfortunately for us, sometimes the truth doesn’t paint us in the best of lights.
But I will take raw and unflinching over sanitized and pulls-punches writing every single day. I connect more to it. When I read that sort of writing, I feel something.
And because we’re all humans moving through life, we all have wounds of some shape or size to share with the world. Creative non-fiction isn’t the woe-is-me Olympics or comparing who has bigger or deeper wounds. That comparative game is faulty in writing and in life overall. The point more so is that if someone thinks they don’t have a “raw and unflinching” story to tell, I would question if they’re being honest with themselves.
Furthermore, that doesn’t mean every single story needs to be some bummer of a story. Again, the main thing is to tell the truth, and sometimes the truth is beautiful and hopeful and romantic, and all those lovely things. But sometimes, it’s awful. Tell that side, too.
So, writers out there, keep writing your wounds. It’s never easy, and it’s not always pretty, but it sure is necessary. Like actual wounds, if I don’t write them, they fester in my brain until I do.
What do you think? Do you view creative non-fiction in the same way?