‘Dump’ or ‘Craft’?

I’ve spent most of the last three months ‘dumping’ my thoughts onto the blank page, or in my case, blank computer screen. This is despite Louise de Salvo’s belief that we have a better chance of benefiting from

detailed, organized, compelling, vivid and lucid

(2001, p.49)

writing, otherwise known as ‘crafting’, than from simply writing what we feel.

I’ve been a ‘dumper’ for most of my life and owe a lot to the process. It helps me to: understand what is bothering me; clear my head; and constructively deal with my feelings, thoughts and anxieties.

But in my thesis, now almost five years old, I agreed with de Salvo. I asserted that autobiographical writing can be more healing if we reflect on our memories and turn them into readable, enjoyable, evocative material meant for public consumption. When I’m not stuck in a ‘dumping phase’ I can spend days and weeks ‘crafting’ my work, editing, reflecting on, and thinking through what I write. The result is occasionally  something I’m proud to share with others, and I find the crafting process as therapeutic as my ‘daily moan’.

So, which am I, a ‘Dumper’ or a ‘Crafter? Crafting is harder than dumping, but I’m not sure dumping is always beneficial. On the other hand, writing ‘Daily Pages’ is lauded by most writers as a preeminent example of ‘turning up at the page’, and a valuable source of raw material to shape into a polished piece of ‘creative’ writing.

In other words, a writer can, perhaps should, be both a ‘Dumper’ and a ‘Crafter’. The problem is, while writing my thesis, and more recently, my critical inner voice insisted I stop wasting time ‘Dumping’ and get serious about ‘Crafting’. Then, when I’m crafting a piece, my inner critic hisses, ‘This will never work,’ or, ‘why write a blog about dumping or crafting? Everyone knows about this, it will be boring, no one will read it. You are wasting your time.’

I was recently asked about blogging and gathering ‘likes’, the snare social media uses to keep us logged on-line. But what, exactly, is a ‘like’ worth and has it become a measure of self-worth? Can a ‘like’ substitute for ‘Well done,’ for an invitation to share coffee, or for a virtual chat about your blog? Is a ‘like’ less affirming than the ‘holy grail’ of a ‘comment’ because a comment implies a reader wants to engage with you on your topic or idea? And what are comments compared to high sales figures and literary prizes, bait that lures authors and novelists into believing they are the exemplars of the craft of writing?

accomplishment ceremony education graduation
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’m not saying approval, credit and prizes are bad things but, to return to ‘dumping’ your feelings and problems on the page, I do suggest rereading these ‘rants’ can yield one of two insights: either the writer unwittingly created something remarkable and satisfying, or they are confronted by a vindictive, angry, suffering person who should either hide their aberrations and discontent or seek professional support.

Like writers, anyone is capable of being a demon and an angel, a saint and a sinner a ‘Dumper’ or ‘Crafter’. It depends on whether or not we choose to work on ourselves. The raw material we have to work with is the human creature we are. Sure, we can dump our rage on another person, as if they are a blank page forced to accept our negative thoughts, feeling and ideas. We can also ‘craft’ ourselves into a kind, affectionate, honest and honourable person, someone others want to engage with and by crafting the self it’s possible we can heal ourselves (and silence the inner critic). Crafting the self may also help us heal the world.

Dumper or Crafter or both? It’s up to you.

The Source

It’s too easy to let things slip, to think ‘I can come back to that,’ or ‘I’ll have time tomorrow for…’. Yet, when everything seems important, imperative or imminent, little feels rewarding.

In my very small garden is a tub of red geraniums. The petals, robust flags of red, clump comfortably together, the blooms, unhurried in their blooming, are languid in their display.

Elixir is nothing like my red geranium. It has not bloomed in my mind or heart for several months. It has failed, unlike my strumpet geranium, to grab my attention, and so I ask myself, ‘Why did I start Elixir? What did I want to achieve? Why, indeed,  write a blog?’

In Writing as a Way of Healing, Louise de Salvo asks,

…what if writing were a simple, significant, yet necessary way to achieve spiritual, emotional and psychic wholeness? To synthesize thought and feeling, to understand how feeling relates to events in our lives and vice versa? p6.

writing-as-a-way-of-healing Elixir started as a blog about therapeutic writing. Then it changed and, perhaps, lost its way. What kind of blogger loses control of her blog?

Hauling Elixir back to its original premise, a blog about the power of writing to heal, feels right. It feels simple and significant and necessary and it feels like Elixir has returned to its source:

My interest has never been in end results, but in the process of creation and expression…(*)

What have you resurrected lately?

(*) Judy Clinton, in Writing Works: A Resource Handbook for Therapeutic Writing Workshops, p. 217.