reflection on the perfecting of language

As writers we strive to reflect a form of reality. If it is non-fiction, it is literally reality. If it is fiction it is still the idea to convey something with such real-ness that the reader is immersed in it, allowing it for a time to become their reality.

A ramble born from a small bit of text…

From my Rhetorical Theory class just completed, we were assigned a reading by the Chicana queer author Gloria Anzaldua. This passage stuck out to me:

I see a preoccupation with the deep structure, the underlying structure, with the gesso underpainting that is red earth, black earth. I can see the deep structure, the scaffolding. If I can get the bone structure right, then putting flesh on it proceeds without too many hitches. The problem is that the bones often do not exist prior to the flesh, but are shaped after a vague and broad shadow of its form is discerned or uncovered during beginning, middle and final stages of the writing. (Borderlands/La Frontera)

Anzaldua’s thoughts here seem to be on the reality of the act of assigning language to an experience actually giving it a form that didn’t exist before the words. And this also means quite literally that authors are crucial to humans being able to understand ourselves. We wrestle with the nuances of meaning, across many languages, in order to re-create an experience that can somehow give a verisimilitude to something that is only being created in your mind.

That’s powerful. In another part of her writing, Anzaldua references the shaman of her native American heritage culture and suggests this power of re-creation and immersion in past, present, and future (real or imagined) that writers can do is magic, as mystical and elemental as giving birth or healing the sick.

Interesting that both of these are activities women (more accurately, of course, persons with wombs) do. After all it’s called midwifery, not midhusbandry. And women have been using herbs and poultices and healing the sick and injured since time immemorial. It’s also been the source of attacks upon women, too, their healing successes referred to as “magic” or failure as “devil’s work.”

How does this connect with writing?

Think about censorship. Think about writing about LGBTQ characters. Anzaldua’s words made me think about the responsibility I have as a writer to write clear and write true. To represent accurately. I have a responsibility to create an immersive reading experience that honors and respects the human real experience, even as I create a fictional one.

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