The morning of our second workshop, which was Sunday morning, I prepared to visit the church of revision once again with my humble head bowed and my bi-weekly offering of new pages and chocolate zucchini bread. I waited to be saved. I waited to be redeemed. I waited to hear that I was on my way to story redemption. Let me tell you, Believers, it was a long, grueling service.
Truth is, in the religion of words, there is no savior, no glimmer of redemption, and certainly no definitive moment of salvation. All of those rites of passage come from the act of writing and rewriting. Forget "writing is rewriting." It’s more than that.
Writing is believing.
Rewriting is salvation.
I am deep in the process of salvation. It feels inspiring and heartbreaking. It means leaving the comfortable and accepted for the unknown and undiscovered. What it means is excavation. It means digging into my own emotional earth and plumbing the dirt with my own fingers for bones of feelings I’d left behind.
It involves imagining moments in your life and asking, "What if?" What if this had happened instead? What if I had said this instead? What if I had felt this instead? Each bone you dig up is a clue to the archeology of yourself as a writer, which in turn unearths those hidden depths of your characters, the key to your story. I am standing a few earthen cores above China, conducting a few penitential rites, hoping that the Gods above or below will forgive me my writerly sacrilege for the sins I’ve committed, which include: not asking questions about my characters or story, not thinking of the reader, using florid prose to serve as substance, and not using self-discovery enough to inform myself of what can be used on the page.
I realize that the only contrition is to rewrite. That’s why it is the road to enlightenment and salvation. It’s about forcing your spirit to guide you through structures you don’t know and journeys you need to go on in order to get to the true essence of yourself as a writer.
Along with the contrition is thankfulness. Without the helpful guidance of our priest of excavation, Al Watt, and my fellow parishioners, Shanna Mahin and Carl Peel, I’d be stuck in my own private hell full of unanswered questions and cowardice that prevents me from asking those questions solely because I don’t have an immediate answer.
I realize I'm using religion and archeology as a rambling mixed metaphor, but I feel that digging deeper is what the spirituality of writing is all about. We must observe our own flaws with honesty, so that in ascribing them to our characters, writer and reader enter into a communion of empathy. Isn't that what every writer prays for?