In the gaze of the other

"My mistress' eyes are nothing…"

Meraki

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The therapeutic rewards of writing have long been touted even before Freud and “the talking cure.” Writers write endlessly about writing as compulsion, art, creativity, release, documentation, imitation, recording, reporting and life. But my scouring of the web today yielded very little about writing as a gift. Correction, writing as a gift to the reader. I read plenty advice to write as a gift to the self.

I teach writing. I have often wondered not only what every teacher has wondered (and Kurt Vonnegut wrote about in one smart anecdote he told in the New York Times “Writers on Writing” series), if writing can in fact be taught (which I think it can), but what can teaching writing teach about relationships. 

Just like all roads in creative nonfiction lead home to the writer writing about writing, all teaching should lead to life, and what is life but relationships? We live in the world with other people–most of us. Relationships are relevant. Teachers should teach relevant skills, especially in classes teaching craft.

So, I try to impress upon students that grammar is life and writing is a gift, if you write consciously and conscientiously. 

Grammar is life. The eight parts of speech comprise the basic elements, the core of the English language. However, what something is, changes in relation to what that something is next to. For instance, when is a noun not a noun? When it is up against another noun, side by side, in a sentence. Often the first noun acts like an adjective such as in the phrase “road runner” or “nurse maid.” 

Similarly, a student sits in my class as a human being, perhaps a particular gender identified to that human. Sitting in my class, that human is a student, an enrollee and a peer. At home, he or she may be a sibling, a daughter or son, or spouse. People are defined by their relationships, where they are in the world–just like grammar.

And grammar is the coded order of our language, how we make sense of things. When we write–even for our own health or need–we write to be read by ourselves and others. To be understood is to write for someone else, to paint pictures, to explain something, to teach how to do something or vent, to name a few purposes of writing.

The act of writing is a giving. To do it well, to make it beautiful, clear, precise or illustrative, we must turn our eyes from ourselves to others, see like an other. What will my reader understand? What will it mean for the reader? My great gut-wrenching desire to get “it” right–just the right word–is the desire not only to create something worthy of respect, not merely catering to compulsion, but to connect a mind to another mind in a shared moment of thought or experience.

  
Wanting to transport something from inside the self to another self is a longing to merge with another. The writer and reader are lovers, always longing for being one.

credit: 

jarretfuller.com and illuminology.tumblir.com

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