Saturday, January 4, 2014
Reading For Craft
Journals, Diaries, and Letters (Perspective)
“…When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true beginners. Then we can really learn something. The beginner’s mind is the mind of compassion. When our mind is compassionate, it is boundless.” Henri Nouwen, The Genesee Diary
All writers are well aware of the treasure that can be found during research with journals and diaries and letters, especially for memoir and historical genres. But this area of reading offers gems that can impact all our work. Regardless of our particular field, reading journals, diaries, and letters can give us perspective, expertise and courage. We’ll dig a little deeper into applications over the next few blogs.
Henri Nouwen is a writer that often challenges me in his books causing me to wrestle with my beliefs and choices, solitude and service. Yet it is in his personal diaries that I am more ready to listen without argument or questions. Why? Because in some ways reading his diary or letters is a form of eavesdropping that is restorative. He shares his heart. And builds a bridge of communication. His feelings are true to him and cannot be dismissed because I don't happen to understand them.
Not only am I neither a man, nor a monk, nor have experienced hardly any lifestyle close to Nouwen’s, but I still have this opportunity to understand him by these very personal writings. And then when I need to write a scene that may involve a person close to one of Nouwen’s experiences I will have some honest thoughts to guide me.
How as a non-linear processor can I possibly write through the viewpoint of a character that cannot conceive of anything other than step-by-step deduction? Or someone in a social or economic strata completely foreign to me, without inserting possible pre-conceived and possibly false attitudes.
Reading private thoughts gives a clearer perspective heart to heart that helps bypass arguments and stereotypes. It works for the characters we love and the ones we’d rather never meet. But by grounding them from real live personalities we can write them with more honesty and help our characters grapple with real life situations. With compassion.
Share: Whose journal have you read that gave you insight?
Read deep, marcy