My husband has heard a lot about blood essays. I read him the one I wrote last winter, and we discussed the purpose and benefits. We discussed how hard it is to write something so real, and how hard it is to find the real purpose in your subject. We discussed how it makes you go places you'd rather not, but how it's very healing, and helps you understand yourself better.
Last night he decided to write one. It was something he'd mentioned before, but had never actually started. He took the topic for this semester, and wrote about a "tense relationship." He wrote about two sides of himself.
I was sitting next to him doing homework. He'd been working for about ten minutes, and finally turned to me, frustrated.
"How do you start? I've tried about eight different openings now, but don't like any of them."
This led to a discussion on how you just WRITE first, and format later, after you've discovered what you're actually writing about (this happens to be something I struggle with, but am working on). Redirected, he began to quickly spill his thoughts onto the page. When he first pulled his head up to read me part of what he had written, I was amazed. One of the hardest things for me with a blood essay is that I'm afraid of the topic, and afraid of digging around in my guts like that. My first draft generally beats around the bush quite a bit, and I have to go back in afterwards and explore what is really happening. But Ryan? He just went for it, headfirst, no holding back. And within an hour, he had written a lot of very difficult things. So then he turned to me again.
I told him that according to Sis. Morgan, it's not "Now what?" it's "So what?" I asked him if anything he'd written had surprised him. He looked at it for a moment, and was able to pick out two sections, one that he had known but had been very difficult to write, and one that was something he just plain hadn't realized. But in looking at them, we could both feel that they weren't the core of the issue; they were results and evidences of something deeper. Then came the Spirit, talking to my mind in the voice of Sis. Morgan.
"Ryan, you mention this experience up here, but you skim past it. You can't do that. You don't tell us anything about how it made you feel, or how it changed you. It really has little relation to the rest right now."
The look on his face morphed quickly from panic, to realization, to resignation. This was it, and he knew it. That was why he had avoided it in the first place. I felt a little better, knowing that I'm not the only one who beats around the real issue. But again, he set an incredible example for me. He pushed right in, and it was only five minutes before he looked up with tears in his eyes, and said, "There. I found it." And when he read it to me, I knew he was right. Everything he'd been fighting and struggling with came from an experience he had when he was nine years old, and once he realized that, he named it without hesitation. He went and changed some of the emotions he'd expressed in other sections to reflect what he'd discovered to be the true motivator. And then, instead of being satisfied with just discovering the truth in it, he told me he wanted to bring it in to the Writing Center, and turn it into a good essay. He didn't have Sis. Morgan giving him deadlines; he didn't have the hesitation that it was too personal to have someone else help him with. He wanted it to be the best he had to offer, not to be published, but just for himself.
As we sat there looking at that piece of himself he'd discovered, I asked him how he felt.
"Good, it's a Blood essay; it's supposed to be written in your own blood. But does it feel any better?"
"It feels like I've pulled a two-foot spike out of a bottom corner of my heart, and now I'm squeezing all the blood and infected pus out of it. It feels a lot cleaner, and it feels like I can finally deal with it, because I know where it comes from."
I nodded, and we sat in silence for a minute. Then I spoke. "Well, I'm really impressed that you dove in headfirst like that."
"Yeah, but I didn't have any idea the water would be so cold!"
How true that is.
Last night I sat by the writer of a Blood essay, and learned almost as much as if I had written one.