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Part II

By Remy Benoit

What are you looking for with your writing? Are you looking for self-expression? Are you looking for healing; writing to bring yourself home? The exercises and discussion in Part 2 will help you along your path.

I have some questions for you.

No, this is not a pre-test to see how much you know of this or that; we all know enough of this or that.

You have probably had enough tests in your life.

Life is filled with them.

If you have taken up the pen, a pencil, a keyboard to express yourself; to share your feelings, your thoughts, your insights, or your questions; if you have taken up your pen to heal yourself, or to try to share your healing with others, you have already emerged from much of life's testing.

The questions that need answering are to be answered only privately by you and for you.

Why have you turned to writing?

Why have you decided that history, personal, or collective should be your medium of expression?

What is the purpose of your writing?

What do you intend to achieve with it?

Perhaps those questions can't be answered all at once; not many of life's questions can.

Perhaps you have not come to the place yet to know why you have chosen to write, or what; perhaps history is just something that intrigues.

Maybe you have asked yourself; why did I react to that person, or that situation in that manner? What came before that predisposed me to act like that?

Why did I react, rather than act?

If you are not at a place where you have any of the answers to the above questions yet, don't worry about it.

Just keep them in mind, and let the answers come when they will.

You can try to begin to let them emerge by writing down this one line and seeing where it takes you:

I am here looking for words because....

Don't force it; let out whatever is ready to come out.

It will come.

Somedays it will come in floods, just like your story.

Other days it will trickle, slowly.

There will be days you may have to prime the pump; those are days when the story seems locked in place, the characters not there answering the morning call. On those days just start writing about something, anything. You will find the characters will come and start putting their opinions in, and your work will continue.

But be gentle with yourself; if tears must fall, let them. If rage seeks passage to the surface and resolution, let it out, there on the paper, on the keyboard where you can see it. Look at it.

Decide what is to be done with them, the pain on the paper or keyboard damp with tears; the rage on the paper, on the keyboard, looking for resolution.Remember" if it is too much for you to handle alone, do back off and seek professional help.

Perhaps you will feel what I call "a cracking"; things, feelings, spilling out. Ease them out gently; feed yourself, gently, soothing, gentle, but not overly copious foods; sleep awhile and let them achieve the perspective they need. These "crackings" will enhance your fictional work and characters as you will look for their soft, underbellies, armored places, and know how to handle them.

Perhaps one day's work with it isn't enough, for you, or for what your characters have to say.

Be gentle with yourself.

Be loving with yourself.

Honor yourself.

Be most cautious with whom you share what you put on the paper.

What you put on the paper, and what you keep putting on the paper, will begin to change your characters, and you. Very often those around you, those you want to be supportive of you, will feel the most threatened by those changes.

Perhaps they will view you as a mate and wonder why you are not doing something about the house, or with them, all those hours you spend writing.

Or they, no matter your age, will view you as a child looking for a pat on the head, and some attention.

What is important here is how you view you.

As the pages accumulate you will find yourself starting to say, I am a writer.

As the pages accumulate you will find yourself knowing that is true.

We are all writers; we all write the lines for our lives.

"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."—Kirkegaard

If you wish to write to find the why of those lines, go slowly, taking one piece at a time, perhaps in a journal form.

Something like this.

It was a bright sunny morning, and Johnny ran out to play with his friends, filled with delight and expectation of the day ahead, but....

What have you found in the but.

Or: When we were counting down to leaving the green, we called the plane going home the Freedom Bird. That seemed such a long way off; 365 endless days of a long way off, a long way off spent, oh how we were spent, in counting off.

That plane, when I arrived in the green was not a Freedom Bird, and the first, the very first thing I remember (choose one: seeing, touching, feeling) was....

The snow of that Korean winter was so cold that...

Please note, there will be times when you need to share what comes out on these pages; try to develop a support group of people you totally trust to be there when you need that. If you are a Vet, this does not have to be carried alone. Don't try to. The net is filled with support groups, quite often addressed by the name of the place you were. There are people to talk to there. Find them, and you will know you are not alone with your feelings.

And, if you are one of our Vets, if you are still waiting to hear and feel this, well, Welcome Home, and here's that hug you have been waiting for.


Pick a time in history at random, not you favorite time period, let's leave that for later.

Who would you be in that time?
What would you be doing?
What are the chances you could read?
What are the choices open to you in that time?
What do you expect your life expectancy to be?
Do you have a sense of being an individual in this time period?
What are chances for travel, for meeting new people, for saying what you truly think?
What do you eat, drink, wear?
How do you acquire those things that you eat, drink, wear?
How often do you bathe?
Where do you sleep?
Where do you dream?
What might you, in that place, in that time, in that position, what might you dream?
What does that you have in common with the now you; with the you that you would like to be?
Write a dialogue between the now you and the that place you and see what you have to say to each other.


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This item is part of historian, author, editor, and educator Remy Benoit's ongoing weblog for Veterans, writers, students, and others who believe in learning from and making history; including thousands of articles and posts and the free writing seminar, Using History for Healing and Writing.

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