Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Honest Stain of Truth (by Amy Sorrells)


Last month I introduced you to Amy Sorrells. If you missed that post, you can find it here. In case any of you are still wondering, "What's so special about Amy Sorrells?", I invite you to read the following post from her and see for yourselves:



Professor Moore* looked like Jabba the Hut, jowls of flesh hanging over the collar of his shirt. He watched, smirking, as other co-eds and I jockeyed for seats around the long conference table, Professor's preferred room arrangement for this, our first college creative writing class.

Until I met Professor, I could always count on my writing pleasing teachers and professors. But assignment after assignment came back with haphazard red-pen scratches. I imagined Professor held my paper for a brief moment before tossing aside.

Professor enjoyed two things: making students cry and picking favorites. I landed in the first group, and was left out of the second like a scrawny girl in a middle school dodge ball game during gym class.

The class favorites wrote about sex, of course, and they wrote about it often. Though I lamented my mediocre scores, I refused to write about something so sacred just for him.

One fateful morning, my alarm clock malfunctioned and I was late for Professor's class. When I arrived, he stopped class and laid into me with a barrage of insults. On and on he spat about how lazy, irresponsible and stupid I was, daring to enter his class late. Too hurt to hold back tears but to proud to leave, I stayed for the whole class.

My notebook was a soggy mess.

That day, I resolved to please Professor--if not shock the hell out of him--with my writing.

And I did.

I wrote a short story full of violence and deceit, sex and betrayal, blood and fine champagne.

The story disgusted me.

Professor loved it.

I hated Professor for a long time after that.

Years later, I realized my sordid short story paralleled scars of abuse from my childhood. The rage I felt toward Professor was a pivotal breakthrough from flowery, Pollyannic prose, and the beginning of my journey of writing hard, writing real and learning to write well.

I can't say I agree with Professors tactics.

But I might understand, now, what he was trying to do.

See, good writing involves daring to go to deep and frightening places. Like John Coffey--the man who breathed light and life into dead things in The Green Mile--hearts come alive when we breathe into still and long-forgotten places.


Words become life when writers allow the pen to pull them places no one else wants to go.





Like leper colonies, places in the soul exist where fear hangs like shadows, veiling what we don’t understand and shielding us from disease and pain. And yet, the only way to be real and alive is to allow the pen to touch diseased and painful places.

It is the unsought job of the writer to burst through the gates of leper colonies . . . to run to those who are bandaged and losing limbs . . . to embrace those who smell like rotting flesh . . . and to caress touch-starved hearts until they stop trembling and maybe, just maybe, believe in life again.

Good writers learn to distinguish the honest stain of truth from pencil scratches on paper.

Good writers learn the events in life which enslave us are the ones which set us free.

Good writers endure hours--even days--of depression that come when the pen finds fragile, tender places.

Good writers touch ugly, diseased places, in order to touch ugly, diseased places of others.

Good writers allow the pen to pull them.

To set even one person free.

*This name has been changed for obvious reasons, although I do believe this professor is dead, and has been for quite some time.


***

To read more from Amy you can visit her website: Amy K. Sorrells

on twitter: @amysorrells

and Facebook: Amy K. Sorrells

20 comments:

L.T. Elliot said...

Wow. Just...wow.

Amy Sorrells said...

Thanks, L.T., and thank you so much, Kathy! (But could you maybe shrink my face down to thumbnail size? Scared me to death!)

Cynthia Schuerr said...

Amy,
I am never sure where you are taking me until we get there. And then I am in awe of you.
Warm Wishes,
Cynthia

katdish said...

Okay, Amy. I made it smaller. (You writers are so demanding.)

♥ Kathy said...

I know some Sorrells in Oklahoma.. I love the way she writes. Gonna check her blog out..thanks Kat for the intro!

Jeanne Damoff said...

I love this, Amy. A lot of writers bemoan Puritanesque industry standards in the Christian market, but few better express why those restrictions can do more harm than good. Thank you for this beautiful, thoughtful glimpse into what motivates your pen. I pray God uses your "honest stains of truth" to set many free.

Heidi said...

Great post! My favorite paragraph -- beautifully written, absolutely leapt out at me (LOL, Blogger's spell-check doesn't think "leapt" is a word!) -- is this one:

"It is the unsought job of the writer to burst through the gates of leper colonies . . . to run to those who are bandaged and losing limbs . . . to embrace those who smell like rotting flesh . . . and to caress touch-starved hearts until they stop trembling and maybe, just maybe, believe in life again."

Thanks, Kathy, for posting Amy's piece!

Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus said...

I love this whole idea of writers bursting through gates of leper colonies, to touch the hurting.

Terrific writing, Amy.

Bina said...

Wonderful.

...just wonderful.

Bridget Chumbley said...

Absolutely eloquent and spot on! I love these words...

Good writers learn the events in life which enslave us are the ones which set us free.

Thank you for such a wise and heartfelt post, Amy.

Helen said...

While I am glad he brought out the best in you, I am sorry he hurt you to do it. He had no idea that was inside you. He had no right to demand it of you that way. But you are a trooper and rose to the occasion! Good for you!

Melinda Lancaster said...

Deeply inspiring post.

One of the things that stood out to me was "Good writers learn the events in life which enslave us are the ones which set us free.

Good writers endure hours--even days--of depression that come when the pen finds fragile, tender places.

Good writers touch ugly, diseased places, in order to touch ugly, diseased places of others.

Good writers allow the pen to pull them.

To set even one person free."

Lord help us to be willing to hurt in order that You might heal.

Sandra Heska King said...

Speechless!

Amy Sorrells said...

Cynthia, Kathy, Jeanne, Heidi, Jennifer, Bina, Bridget, Helen, & Melinda--I've been away from the computer all day and read your comments all at once. You are all so precious! Cynthia--sure am glad you stick around to the end. Kathy--I don't know of any relatives in Oklahoma, but that'd sure be cool! And Melinda, yes, Lord, help us to allow You to help others through our pain, Amen! (Oh & katdish--thanks for shrinking my face. Demanding AND quite self-conscious! Whew.)

Sarah Salter said...

Amy, I went through the very same thing with one of my professors--though mine wasn't so cruel to me. I managed to write "my way" the whole semester but then for the final exam, he gave me a prompt that forced me to write about sex and drugs. I don't remember how I handled it, but when I spoke to him after grades came out, he admitted that he had intentionally forced me to write that uncomfortable subject matter. He also told me that I had managed to do it in a way that was true to my beliefs and that I had really surprised him. That really taught me a lot about myself...

Jason said...

I need some Lactaid because that post was legen-dary.

SharonB said...

Wow. I mean really WOW.

Billy Coffey said...

Perfectly said, Amy. It takes guts and passion to write the way we're all intended to, and you have an abundance of both.

Stephanie said...

Holy cow...Amy, I wish I could find the perfect words to tell you how profound this piece is. As a writer, that is my precise goal. You have some mind-blowing talent, sister!
xo
katdish...Thanks for having the foresight to invite Amy to post. ;-)

Amy Sorrells said...

Sarah--so glad I'm not the only one who met Jabba face-to-face. Jason--I'm sorry I gave you indigestion. Sharon, Billy & Stephanie--I write with The Force, that's all. Jabba gave me a bit of The Force. No, seriously, thank you guys. If I didn't kid around, I'd cry from your gracious compliments. Just ask katdish. Writing mercies to you all!