So what is so special about writing? After all it is a relatively new skill in the long history of life on Earth. Most people in the world learn to talk, but many still don’t read or write.
This week I experienced a bit of the magic of writing for myself. The writing group I have been part of for over five years had a meeting where, for a change, we brought pieces of writing we had developed and polished to share.
One member of the group was away on holiday and was disappointed to be missing the opportunity to share. She suggested she might email a poem she had written so that I could print it for the others to read.
So although the author wasn’t present we read her writing together. Because we mainly meet to write we decided to respond to her writing by writing in our own notebooks. We asked ourselves what we enjoyed about her writing, what we found harder or surprising or shocking. And then we considered the message we had received from her writing.
Anne’s beautiful and poignant poem about the approach of winter moved us all. The use of colour, red against the black and grey, the imagery of skeletal fingers and the edginess of raking nails, stirred deep emotions. And the ambiguity of two words ‘winter stalks’ conveyed layers of meaning.
All through some little black marks on white paper. We read her words, and heard her voice, and made our own meanings. We wondered if we should have waited till she was present to read us her own writing, but I for one am glad we didn’t.
It illustrated for me the power of writing over speech. Writing captures moments and experiences, it preserves them in a form which can then be shared. The author may not be with us, but their presence is. Writing can be sent far away, and endures beyond death.
In my notebook I now have Anne’s written poem, and also my written scribblings, my feelings and thoughts in response to her writing. Emotions and ideas which if I had fed back to her verbally quite probably would have been quickly forgotten.
A moment of encounter, response and creation, all though staring at some squiggles on a page, decoding a message from someone not there, and making marks of my own.
No wonder early books and scrolls, and writers and readers of the same, were viewed with awe. Writing has a kind of magic.