Another excerpt from my book Women Voice and Writing.
Megan LeBoutillier used the term “creative wound.” There is an archtype of the wounded healer. The theory is that one needs to go through a healing crisis oneself, facing death or near death, before one can come into the fullness of her healing power. Only though the alchemy of this kind of transformation, then, can one understand and minister to others in healing.
Wounding may not be necessary to attain depth of voice. But if one has been through a crisis—creative or personal, that crisis can be used in service of strengthening voice. And clarifying voice.
Noted American anthropologist Margaret Mead talks about this in her book Blackberry Winter—the frost bringing out the sweetness of the fruit. There is something about hard times that brings a choice: either resiliency, and we grow and strengthen from it, or we give up and fold. Collapse can be a protective choice, when one needs time to heal and regain resources before resiliency can return.
And our voices get clarified by the scarring.
Megan: I think of the time when my mother found the stories and laid them on my bed as a creative wound, that that effectively silenced my public voice.
... being a writer is a lifelong dream, and somewhere along the line I realized that I had released the dream or been separated from it or something. At some point
it became very important that I get back in touch with that dream. And I appreciate now being on the other side of the struggle, that I really had to work very hard for something.
Yoko Kawashima Watkins and Joan Hiatt Harlow both had the experi- ence of wounding by elementary teachers when the teacher jeered their young stories—both about birds. For each of them, it brought up a determination to stand by her truth.
At age 7, Yoko wrote her first story born out of challenge to her truth. When she was young, Yoko’s physical voice was weak and whispery, and she learned to speak more audibly by talking to her birds. The class bully and then the teacher did not believe that the bird helped her get her voice, and called her a liar. Yoko endured this round, and then another blow sent her from the school—and to writing her first pub- lished story. She tells this story in her interview.
And Joan’s bird story:
Joan: I wrote a story in second or third grade about a wounded bird that I took care of until it could fly.
The teacher called me to her desk and told me, “This couldn’t happen. The bird could never fly again.” I tried to explain that it was a “make-believe” story but I ended up feeling as if I had told a terrible lie. I guess she didn’t know about “that willing suspension of disbelief which constitutes poetic faith.”
Later when I gave her a poem I had worked on at home, she didn’t believe I had written it. But other teachers did recognize my writing abilities and were really encouraging, later.