I met this lovely woman in a small writers’ group. Besides writing poetry and nonfiction, she taught at a nearby college. Our group would get together weekly to read our works-in- progress for each other’s feedback. Michele’s readings at the time consisted of personal memoir chapters that revealed a little of her background—adopted, a teenage runaway, who then put herself through college and law school while attempting to find her blood relatives. All her stories filled me with admiration for her determination and capabilities. A couple of the stories alluded to violence in the past. But, there was nothing that prepared me for the violence and the deplorable living conditions this quiet, soft smiling woman had survived. Her memoir, Walk Away impressed upon me how courageous she was in her childhood, and how courageous she is now to write and share her story.
This author is the next blog guest. Upon finishing her book, I immediately wanted to ask Michele to share her comments for my “Why Create” series. Did her misery in earlier life drive her urge to create, as we have learned was the case for so many of our famous creators?
Here is Michele’s response:
Next year, I’ll be sixty years old. I started writing as a teenager, overwhelmed by longing and confusion, and I wrote the sort of angst-ridden, encoded stuff you might expect. It made sense only to me, but it allowed me to make some sense out of the chaos of experience. Ironically, the creative process itself distracted me from the angst, even though angst was my subject matter.
Later, as a young adult, I became less interested in the angst and more interested in form, especially in poetry. This, I think, was also a way to make sense out of experience, by fitting it into the predictability of meter and given forms like sonnets and sestinas. Shaping my thoughts and experience into a poem was an exercise in thinking as well as feeling. While inside the poem-making, I was in the moment, in that sense of flow that resembles meditation, or the luxurious halfway state between sleep and waking. I was hooked.
So the simplest answer, for me, to the question “Why create?” is that it feels good, whether the process distracts me from some pain, or brings my brain into a deliciously altered state. A more complicated answer is that I also believe in sharing the dark secrets of our lives, because there can be no dark secrets if we don’t keep them in the dark.
I still write and publish poetry, but more and more, my writing energy pours into essay and memoir, the revelation and consideration of those dark secrets. My most recent project, Walk Away, a Kindle Singles memoir, is about my time as a teenage runaway, and about integrating a violent, impulsive past into a more conscious and deliberate present. It’s been a great honor to hear from readers that my story has resonated for them. And that’s the final reason I create: to communicate with others, especially other women.
Visit Michele's website at https://michelejleavitt.com
Download Walk Away, a Kindle book at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss/156-5419197-6924960?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=michele+leavitt