THE BLOG

Writing My Way Through Trauma

10/26/2012 12:22 EDT | Updated 12/26/2012 05:12 EST

I was born with a cleft-lip, endured a series of serious illnesses and prolonged abuse. My father was an alcoholic who had heart disease. He died when I was nine years old. In my adulthood I experienced sexual abuse and eventually, like my father, became an alcoholic. Thankfully early on I discovered writing and reading. It provided me with a reprieve from my troubled thoughts and a means of expression that extends beyond superficial appearances.

Another blessing was the public library. Holding a book in my hands gave me a feeling of kinship with an author whose susceptibilities, more often than not, seemed to be aligned with my own. For many years my writing practice aimed at emulating not only traditional creative works of literature, but also the written works of philosophers, scientists, historians, analysts and anthropologists. My aim was to write a book that offers a sense of friendship to others. Even here, in this writing, I am reminded of the significance of human relationships and relatedness of things.

At the age of seven, in the midst of the turmoil I was facing at home, I began writing by simply copying by hand the work of a chosen author. After making a satisfactory facsimile I made a second copy but this time I made one or two slight alterations. I enjoyed this process of transforming an original work of writing into something that I felt was my own.

I thought to myself, If I can write a sonnet like Shakespeare or a prose poem like Baudelaire or a play like Sophocles, some day someone will proclaim my own creative writing as a work of art. For nearly 40 years I sought to follow in the footsteps of other writers in terms of genre, structure, and style, until it occurred to me that a truly great creative writer probably does not aim at emulation but rather at creation itself. Nonetheless, this sort of emulation process was useful. It armed me with a plethora of writing skills and techniques that I suggest are vehicles of expression. Recently it occurred to me that what is required of a creative writer is to develop a way of entering into an investigation that does not require the aid of preconceived theory rather the theory is developed in the making of the artifact.

There are those who have argued that it does not matter how one goes about creating a work of art, rather what is important is the creation itself. Undoubtedly the previous argument is valid, however because I enjoy writing, I am not content with not knowing what we mean by a "creative writing practice."

There are others who have argued that how creation occurs will always remain a mystery. But is it not mystery itself that provokes one to locate an answer? And there are others too who have argued that creative writing is a result of years of practice. But the problem with the previous approach is that practice alone does not account for extraordinary works of writing that are consistently produced without the benefit of years of practice.

It has been my experience that writing is a means to gain an understanding that might have otherwise gone unnoticed, which is why becoming aware of how one engages in the practice of creative writing may be important. In creating an expression of my own experiences with abuse and loss, for example, I realized that what happened was not a series of separate events. That is to say extreme illness, loss, and abuse, extended beyond the limitation of a particular event. The result is mental and physical scars. This is why it is impossible for me to hide what happened in some sort of "attic" in my mind. Like great joy and pleasure I carry everything that is significant with me since what is significant captivates my interest. While I cannot hide what is significant from myself I can transform my thoughts. Today my physical and mental scars are a kind of war memorabilia. I wear them proudly. There are many kinds of wars. Some are fought in family homes, in cars, in hospital beds and in the mind.

For nearly three years I have been researching the practice of creative writing in a doctoral program in London, England. What I have been able to sort in terms of my own practice of creative writing is that writing is a kind of investigation. Recently while writing I began paying close attention to my own immediate experience. Can I locate something significant? This is the question. Thoughts, like time, are not things that arrive in segments but are rather fluid and flow into the immediate present that is continuously unfolding.

If I rely too heavily on reasoning or logicality instead of my intuition I often fail to notice that everything is connected flowing from one thing into the next. Reason separates things. My intuition unifies. One of the marvelous things about writing is the opportunity to regulate the rate of speed (or slowness) and direction of my thought processes. Perhaps the importance of creative writing and reading a work of creative writing lies in the opportunity to inspect our own thoughts and experiences as opposed to offering us a means to make judgments about a book that exists outside the self.