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Finding our Faces: Why Write? Why Read?

For the record, I despised Wuthering Heights when I read it. I felt it was an emotionally abusive anti-romance, but that is the topic for another time (and if you need to stop reading my thoughts now based on that opinion, I totally forgive you.) BUT Emily Bronte did write a beautiful sentiment in the above quote. Catherine understands that she and Heathcliff both have a wildness in their souls that speak to each other. Have you ever found that? Found pieces yourself in someone else? How about in a book? Movie? I hope so.

Stories are an emotional workout. We read, watch, listen, devour them, so that we might practice for the emotional trials we may one day face. As a serial read-a-holic, who devours the written word in almost any genre, I feel this. We write to tell our stories, to sort through experiences, to try to say something we hope will be listened to. Then we imagine the reader who is touched by our story. We are validated by our own words staring back at us on the page. Then we read to try to find our values, aspirations, hopes and dreams. The metaphor of a good fiction can help us find pieces of ourselves.

A couple of years ago, I picked up the book Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis and I couldn’t put it down. For those unfamiliar, it is a retelling of the Greek story of Psyche and Cupid, and purportedly Lewis’ self-reported masterpiece. The story is told from the perspective of Orual, Princess and later Monarch of Glome, who is detailing her list of grievances against the Gods. At the climax of the book she discovers that her ‘complaint’ is nonsensical because of her own flawed perspective, and she shares this powerful insight:

I think one of the reasons I love stories is because they help me begin to ‘dig that word’ out of my soul. They help me begin to discover pieces of myself by showing how they are reflected in others and their perspectives. As fellow members of the human condition, I’m glad we can find pieces of our souls in one another. We are more alike than we think. So if you write, please keep writing; if you read, keep reading. If you do neither, it’s never too late to begin.

Perhaps you can start with an author like Lewis. Or Bronte, she’s OK, I guess.

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