Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads. Erica Jong
Since beginning my column here for PANK Magazine, Â I’ve received several messages on Facebook as well as several more via email from readers who didn’t feel comfortable sharing their reactions on the website but wished to share their personal stories with me.
These stories have both Â stunned and humbled me. Â
A Â writer never feels more grateful or more sure of the importance of what she does than when people respond to what she writes.
One person wrote, “I wish I had your courage.” Me, too. Although perhaps I’m not courageous. Perhaps I’m a moron. Â After all, I’ve received Â other notes from people Â who’ve said, Â ”I couldn’t Â write what you do without using a pen name.”
I understand. Plenty of my peers use pen names. And Â it doesn’t make what they write any less authentic or important.
I often cry when I write . . . afterward too. Â Â It’s Â not easy Â to admit, confront, confess what I do. Perhaps someone who’s Â been a stripper will understand me. Â You stand on a Â lighted stage and Â drop Â your clothes. You’re naked. Â A Â portion of your audience applauds you because they like what they see; because you entertain them; Â because you’re beautiful, Â brave. Â Another portion Â seeks out Â your faults; they find fault with the Â very thing Â you do. Â People Â judge you.
A long Â time ago, a writing mentor told me my responsibility as a writer was to say what no one else would. Â I wasn’t supposed to write clean or polite or safe. Â I was supposed to Â get dirty, take chances, Â write dangerously. In graduate school another mentor asked, Â ”If it doesn’t hurt, why are you writing it?”
In other words, writing feels painful sometimes. Â
Not everyone shares this philosophy of writing though. Because it’s not for everyone. Â I just happen to take Â writing Â serious Â as blood. Â
When I was a a child, Â I attended Â Communion on Sunday. Â Kneeling at an alter before Father Babb, Â I opened Â my mouth and stuck Â out my tongue. There he placed the Â ”body of Christ,” which I chewed up and swallowed. A few minutes later, another priest came by with the Â ”cup of salvation.” Â Â
All of this tasted Â of wafer and wine to me.
But I understand the metaphor better now. Â
It’s why I write. Â Jesus saves me.