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"the Emergence of Words"

On the Difficulties of Writing

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Stuart is an English teacher who has used what he's learned about Emergence Therapy to create an amazing way to teach children to read. I've been encouraging him to write up his work for several years now, and until recently, he struggled to see what I saw; that his work could change the way reading and writing is taught.

On November 5th, I wrote the following in response to Stuart's request for comments on one of his drafts:

Hi Stuart,

You're doing great. You appear to be going through very much the same things I went through as I tried to put into words the first things I discovered.

Most important, though, is that you find your own style in which to speak these ideas. And of course you know, this "finding" process may take awhile.

Keep going. And don't try to get it "done."

Rather, try to stay connected to the wonderful gift that you are offering others. And to what you yourself are feeling as you search for the words to give this gift.

Also, I believe you are in the finest "real school" in all the world; you are trying to share something you love for the betterment of the children in the world. What could be better?

As for my thoughts, I'd simply like to share what I think might be an alternate opening, style wise. You already have the basic structure, so that is the main thing. And you already know that what you write should be in your own style.

Perhaps what I write may provoke more in you, though, and should not be taken to mean I don't like what you wrote.

I do like what you wrote. But keep word sculpting. Your ideas deserve the best words possible.


[I've edited out my suggestions]

On November 5th, Stuart wrote:

Hi Steven,

Thanks for the feedback. Actually, even after I sent this to you, I've spent so much time writing. It just seems to keep coming. And, yes, the word choice is a great suggestion. At first, I wanted to keep everything simple; this is definitely rough. Also, sometimes, I feel that my writing sounds too academic. And for this article, I am really trying to focus on not just writing my thoughts, but also on that I want others to be able to learn this.

But I must say, I am feeling slightly discouraged. We've been working on emergence as a "lifestyle." How can I expect someone to really get this??? They need to practice it for themselves. This is what I think I need to get at in my paper. I had T**** [his wife] read it, and she felt the examples about breathing and about the basketball really connect the reader to the ideas.

My other problem is, I am so grateful for your feedback; Actually, I wait, anticipating a return email. However, when I read through your rewriting, I got upset. Go figure.

I know you prefaced it with such kindness and as I write this, I can picture the kindness in your eyes. You know, I think I'm getting keyed. And, right now, at this moment, I just was able to really SEE you responding to my article. Man, this never stops...does it?

Thanks so much, Steven


On November 8th, I wrote back:

Hi Stuart,

Well, I thought a lot about what you wrote. And about how you are largely trying to do this alone, in one sense. Not that anyone should be looking over your shoulder; not that "alone." But alone in the sense that you do not seem connected while writing to any other struggling writer, to someone who like you struggles, and struggles still, to find words for the thing he or she knows is true yet which is unknown and thus, not easily written.

So, connected to me in the ideas of emergence? Yes, you are. But connected to the "me" that has accrued ten years of failures of the very kind you mention frustrating you? No, Stuart. And here is where the meaty part of the whole struggle lies.

Stuart, think about it. I am the founder of the whole enchilada and still, I struggle to find the words. Daily.

I see this as my self chosen job, in fact, to struggle to find the words for emergence and for myself and for my life.

As for your being keyed by my comments about your writing, I agree, there's definitely some kind of injury there which I somehow, miracle of miracles, do not have.

Somehow, from the earliest comments I solicited from people about my emergence writings, I was open to almost every comment about the "English" part of my words and in fact, learned much from these comments.

I am, after all, not a professional wordsmith.

What is profoundly harder for me to hear though is when people make "parental corrections" about the content; "scolding" words about how wrong I am.

I especially feel this when people base their comments on a misunderstanding of what I wrote or worse, on a one minute, reductionist read of what I wrote.

These responses do, at times, set me off.

What then? Simple. For a moment or two, I wish them dead. Plain and simple <grin>.

Then, of course, I do what I have always done; I rewrite yet again. And again. And again.

To wit, your brief comments on the autism article I am currently writing have provoked not one painful instant. They did, however, provoke so far about fourteen more hours of rewrites. So far. I, in fact, know there are more hours to come. Perhaps many more hours.

This brings up another point. When is something done?

I imagine a writer such as Hemingway might have said, "never," and I agree to a point. In fact, the "Why Does Therapy take So Long" article you recently reread probably went through more than one hundred rewrites.

Even so, I know I still could go back and make it better. Probably much better.

I haven't. It's done. For this lifetime, at least. Unless, of course, someone inspires me to a higher standard for it. In which case, I may yet rewrite it just a bit. Just one more time <grin>. Or two.

Stuart, here's my point. Should I think about rewriting that article, I would hope someone whom loves me would step in and save me from myself. Everything written should have a limit.

With the autism article; however, which is a new and current expression of emergence, I personally know it's a ways from being done and in fact, I will probably rewrite it many times in the coming months. And then some.

Even so, I know even now that there will be a day when I feel it is done. When? I'll know by how much of what I read feels clear when I reread it: Most of what I consider done contains at least a few moments of this feeling; clarity.

These few moments are basically what I live for as a writer.

Finally, have you ever considered that words "emerge" too?

I'd guess this is my whole point in writing to you today.

Like everything else then, words "emerge." And like everything which emerges, what emerges is not some better structure or tighter logic but rather, it's the beauty in words which emerges; the "clarity" of mind and heart for which the great writers reach.

So don't get so discouraged, Stuart. It may simply be, writing is a much harder task than you ever realized, at least writing at your high level of standards; writing until the very words themselves "emerge."

Hope you're well,