Writing: You Don’t Need a Couch

August 4th, 2004 · No Comments
by Booksquare

Whenever we encounter something we don’t understand in life, we write about it. We’ve solved myriad problems on the page. Some people talk; we write. And write. And write. Until something is resolved — or we’ve made peace with the situation. A current National Endowment for the Arts program is bringing this type of catharsis to active duty soldiers, with good results.

Writing about war has a long tradition in the human experience, which is why we don’t fully agree with this statement:

“These are two parts of society that don’t ordinarily talk to each other,” said Dana Gioia, the endowment chairman. “And we thought, what would happen if we got them in a conversation?”

What we think is more likely is that writing isn’t emphasized in our society, not the way television is. It’s not the military doesn’t speak to the literary community, we think Homer proved that untrue. It’s that creative writing has been de-emphasized in favor of testing (yes, we’ve dragged our soapbox from under our desk), and, in order to release what’s inside, those who naturally write their way to resolution need to feel comfortable with the process. But the soldiers are taking back their stories:

Many of the fledgling writers encountered here are despairing and angry, they said, that their stories are being told, inadequately and inaccurately, only by the news media and civilian authors.

The truth of war is something we can only imagine, and despite the vividness of ours, we doubt we could fully understand it. We are pleased that other are offering a chance to release the memories. And to tell the real stories.

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