Writing as a Refuge

When I was in school, writing was one of my favorite activities.  That made me nerd of the universe, but I always looked forward to reading a teacher’s comments in red ink on what I thought or believed and how I could improve my style. As a teenager I grew to love writing just for myself, even if no one else ever read what I wrote in my journals.  Now I have a blog on which I can express my hopes, fears, convictions, anger, and taste any time I wish, my ego enjoying the bonus that someone out there may be reading and sharing my thoughts, applauding or reviling them, but reading them just the same.

In some ways writing is a release, probably a selfish one, an escape from the inevitable confinements of conversation, that can become a kind of tightrope walk in its need to balance one’s opinions and those of others, not in the sense of a contest, but in a shared quest for information or entertainment.  Because there is so often at least one person who, fascinating or not, monopolizes conversation, rendering others his audience, willing or not, writing can become a little asylum of reflection, without the unsolicited theories and judgments of various and sundry pompous windbags, whose agendas are tossed about so indiscriminately.  I do believe that in order to be a “whole” person, one needs some level of equilibrium between shared thoughts of conversation and the quiet introspection of his own take on the world around him.  It takes both to give us a wide and healthy view.

We live in a time when most of us are bombarded daily by commercial and political messages shouting what is good, what is bad, who is beautiful or important and who is not, regarding everything from what we drive to what we wear and what we eat.  This has become increasingly true over the past century to the point at which we have become victims of over-choice, despite some good information that may help to make our lives safer or more “comfortable.”  Even in cities with large populations, each man and woman lives, to some extent, in his or her own, private world with individual takes on what is going on in the wider environment from minute to minute.

Marketing from Madison Avenue has become expert at beguiling people into believing they want or need things, that in just a little while seem dusty and surprising remnants of half-remembered desires.  Years ago a cracker company discovered that by printing the word, “SEX” on the image of a cracker for only one frame in a 16mm filmed commercial, the subliminal message was that the viewer experienced a powerful but unconscious association between the cracker and the pleasure aroused by the word, “SEX.”  Sales increased exponentially with housewives, their hair still in curlers, astonished that at checkout lines their shopping carts were filled with boxes of crackers.  After that, subliminal advertising became illegal, but imagine its implications during a political campaign.  It brings up the question about where influences around us stop and where our own thoughts make decisions for us.  Creative writing helps us find our way.

As human beings, we sometimes become lazy in our willingness to go along with the crowd, abdicating our natural inclination to look at the world based upon our own needs, knowledge, and experience.  Modern life makes it increasingly difficult to make informed decisions without Google, doesn’t it?  Generating thought and opinions without many outside influences makes originality of thought more and more valuable.

That’s why writing can be such a wonderful sanctuary, where we can record our impressions and thoughts on an infinite number of topics, going back later to the same writing to see if or how we’ve changed our views.  That kind of writing provides a chance to make our own pronouncements, clarify our own insights as we put them along side those that surround us the rest of the time, so that we can say, at least sometimes, “Yes, this is what I think and believe.”  JB

About John

John Bolinger was born and raised in Northwest Indiana, where he attended Ball State University and Purdue University, receiving his BA and MA from those schools. Then he taught English and French for thirty-five years at Morton High School in Hammond, Indiana before moving to Colorado. He spends his winters in Pompano Beach, Florida. Besides COME SEPTEMBER, Journey of a High School Teacher, John's other books are ALL MY LAZY RIVERS, an Indiana Childhood, and COME ON, FLUFFY, THIS AIN'T NO BALLET, a Novel on Coming of Age, all available on Amazon.com as paperbacks and Kindle books. Alternately funny and touching, COME SEPTEMBER, conveys the story of every high school teacher’s struggle to enlighten both himself and his pupils, encountering along the way, battles with colleagues, administrators, and parents through a parade of characters that include a freshman boy for whom the faculty code name is “Spawn of Satan,” to a senior girl whose water breaks during a pop-quiz over THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Through social change and the relentless march of technology, the human element remains constant in the book’s personal, entertaining, and sympathetic portraits of faculty, students, parents, and others. The audience for this book will certainly include school teachers everywhere, teenagers, parents of teens, as well as anyone who appreciates that blend of humor and pathos with which the world of public education is drenched. The drive of the story is the narrator's struggle to become the best teacher he can be. The book is filled with advice for young teachers based upon experience of the writer, advice that will never be found in college methods classes. Another of John's recent books is Mum's the Word: Secrets of a Family. It is the story of his alcoholic father and the family's efforts to deal with or hide the fact. Though a serious treatment of the horrors of alcoholism, the book also entertains in its descriptions of the father during his best times and the humor of the family's attempts to create a façade for the outside world. All John's books are available as paperbacks and Kindle readers on Amazon, and also as paperbacks at Barnes & Noble. John's sixth and most recent book, Growing Old in America: Notes from a Codger was released on June 15, 2014.
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One Response to Writing as a Refuge

  1. susan says:

    Thought this essay was on the mark….Writing it out is like thinking out loud for clarification and re: figuring out the labyrinth, but with the ability to go back and see those thoughts, for more clarifying….!

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