by Judah Leblang
I often avoid writing – after all, it can be hard, messy, uncomfortable. Since I literally write from my life, (nonfiction) and that life has often followed the Jewish dictum, “Man plans and God laughs,” my first reaction is, “I don’t want to revisit the difficult ‘stuff’ that life has presented me with. In other, words, I prefer not to wade around in the muck and those times when the proverbial shit hit the fan.
And yet I come back to writing again and again. Why? Simply because I believe I/we are physiologically and emotionally wired to tell stories, to share them, to find ways to connect. For me, a single gay man in the thicket of middle age, writing (a solitary activity) provides a way to understand my own life, and to find common ground with other souls who are also trying to live authentically in a challenging world.
There’s something hugely liberating in putting words down on the page and (eventually, after a fair amount of blood, sweat and tears), coming up with something that expresses a slice of one’s own truth. Even if the events I’m revisiting were painful, telling the story in my own voice from my current perspective as a fifty-something adult often gives me a sense of power, of healing, and of having a voice.
When I facilitate writing workshops, I focus on creating a safe space, so that the budding writers in the room –- whatever their level of experience –- can tell their stories and validate their journeys. Regardless of the specifics, I find that the same themes emerge again and again: coming into our own, finding our own places and our power as gay men, and dealing with love, loss, grief, joy……in other words, the full range of human emotions.
For me, writing works best when it fosters community. When men come together, look at their life experiences (Flannery O’Connor said that anyone who survived childhood had enough stories to last a lifetime), and reflect on how they came out the other side, we’re all enlivened. In community, we can support each other as we write from the messiness and the beauty of our real lives.
Here is a taste of my ‘writing from real life.’
Please see judahleblang.com for more clips, and for more information about my work.
I hope you will join me April 25-27 at Easton Mountain for "Writing From Real Life". In this interactive, hands-on group experience, you will explore your journey as a gay man and learn how to tell your personal stories in compelling ways. The exercises you will do are designed for men at all levels of writing experience. You have powerful stories that deserve to be told. In this retreat. For more information go to eastonmountain.org/writing-from-real-life