"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

12 February 2007

Revealing, Concealing

I am to introduce myself to a stranger. One wishes to be honest; that stranger will be my teacher and mentor for the next two years. Yet one wishes to be cautious as well. What does he need to know? What is unimportant? How does one reveal enough without revealing too much, conceal appropriately without concealing that which helps him to instruct me?

I don't mind revealing my writing skills. Unlike a fair number of our students, who try to conceal their ignorance and thus cannot learn from us, I am quite ready to reveal my weaknesses in the craft. (Yes, I will cry in humiliation when they are confirmed, but that is the beauty of correspondence courses. One may react in private, get over it, and respond like a mature adult the next day. One hopes.)

But writing is not merely a skill, of course. What makes it weak or strong is often that which underlies the process. And that is where I find myself hesitant, unsure. How much of the self that creates my writing do I, can I, reveal without crossing a line I'll later regret?

The last piece of writing I did nearly killed me. I spent weeks writing, throwing out, writing again, over and over. And it finally came down to this: I either told my own story or I told a lie. Not a lie in the sense of factual untruth, but a dancing about the subject that could not possibly convey its depths and would not have moved a single heart.

I'm glad I bowed to truth. But it was the hardest thing I've yet done in my life, I think. And, surprisingly to me, it hasn't made it any easier to consider doing it again.

Revealing, concealing. We must do both while avoiding both narcissism and dishonesty. A challenge once again. I like this kind of challenge. It reminds me that I'm alive -- and that life matters.


Sojourner said...

I like how you wrote about the tension of this. A+, Teach.

P.S. As if you needed a grade. :)

alaiyo said...

Thanks, Teri!

High grades are always welcome. I live for affirmation. :)