Intertwingled: The Hazards of Writing Others’ Secrets
May 8, 2019 § 16 Comments
By Joanne Lozar Glenn
The older I get, the longer I write, the more secrets I seem to carry.
Some of these secrets are mine. But the deeper I dig into the stories I want to tell, the more I realize that many of these dark places are hopelessly intertwingled with those of others.
Recently, for example, I asked a friend to give me feedback on a brief memoir piece I’d drafted. In it, I formatted certain sentences and paragraphs in grey ink—my code for text that might or might not be included. It’s how I keep the writing open, allow possibility. My friend read one of these greyed-out sections, said this is the heart, that it has to be included, that it is what makes the rest of it real.
Yes, that passage was full of drama. Night. Police. Search parties. That passage was also surely the most searingly painful event of a certain relative’s life.
I took it out. The piece is still unfinished.
And that is how my writing is going these days. It’s a road full of hazards, full of flashing yellow reflectors warning of danger ahead.
Whose reality do I accept: the writer who said all of us end up selling our families down the river anyway or the one who said “sometimes real love is refraining from telling some truths”? Trying to stand tall in the midst of so much tension—the need to write what I lived and felt, the fear of usurping others’ experience as my own, the battle between speaking truth in the service of the story and laying further hurt at the feet of those I love—is crushing.
Sometimes it seems the only option is to mute my pen.
Still, I build scenes. Erase them. Rise from the desk and walk to the kitchen. Return to all the secrets waiting for me in the dark, looking for even the smallest glimmer of light.
Joanne Lozar Glenn is an independent writer, editor, and educator who develops education- and business-related content and leads destination writing retreats. Her book Memoir Your Way: Tell Your Story Through Writing, Recipes, Quilts, Graphic Novels, and More (co-authored with five other writers) was published by Skyhorse Press in September 2016, and her work has appeared in the Northern Virginia Review, Peregrine, Brevity, Hippocampus, Under the Gum Tree, and other print and online journals.