Thursday, September 4, 2008

Changing the World

I just finished reading "Writing to Change the World" by Mary Pipher. It was very helpful to me and got me thinking about what I am trying to say and accomplish by writing my memoir which is tentatively titled "Just Boyfriends" and in my writing in general. She also sets out several clear ways in which to determine your reasons and goals and achieve what you are trying to achieve through writing.

Some thoughts popped out at me more then others. They include:

"I am not interested in weapons, whether words or guns. I want to be a part of the rescue team for our tired, over-crowded planet. The rescuers will be those people who help other people to think clearly, and to be honest and open-minded. They will be an antidote to those people who disconnect us. They will de-objectify, rehumanize, and make others more understandable and sympathetic."

"A writer's job is to tell stories that connect readers to all the people on earth, to show these people as the complicated human beings they really are, with histories, families, emotions, and legitimate needs. We can replace one-dimensional stereotypes with multidimensional individuals with whom our readers can identify."

"Therapy and writing have a great deal in common. Both are highly-disciplined endeavors, involving long hours in small rooms. Both require asking intelligent questions, excavating for emotional truths, and solving complex problems. Often, the work is ambiguous, and success elusive. Wise therapists help clients to think more clearly, feel more deeply, and behave more responsibly. Wise writers often want to do these same things."

"Cynicism is a form of resistance, a walling off of the possibilities for transformation. At its core, it is a response to learned helplessness, a defense strategy. Scratch every cynic and underneath you find a wounded idealist. For therapists and writers alike, the best treatment for cynicism is healing stories."

and finally...

"Many people have powerful stories but lack the skills to be powerful writers. Writers need to be skilled or, when the heart speaks, it is the language of sentimental schmaltz. Yet skill alone is not sufficient. We need authentic emotion to go with it. Powerful writing includes sparkling details, apt metaphors, surprises, and restraint. It has tones and rhythms that change like those of a symphony. The best writing causes readers' breathing to change."

So, that is just a little taste and hopefully gives you something to think about.

Writing to Change the World is very different from other books I have read about writing. I believe it spoke to me even more strongly because I have just begun attending therapy and part of the book compares writers and therapists as Mary Pipher is both.

There has been a lot of talk about change lately with the presidential election nearing. I also find that most people I talk to have something they want to change about themselves, the town they live in, the state they live in, the country, even the world. Writing is one way we can all make a difference or take a step towards change be it in writing a book, sending a letter to the editor of the newspaper or town board, writing an essay, blogging, etc. Pipher's book shows the writer different ways of going about this and brought me hope.

If you are interested in learning more about Mary Pipher and/or reading some of her books you may visit her website at

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