Writing about Boston

Writers, so I hear, are supposed to reap meaning from terrible events, using all the negative energy bound up in the world and spinning it out into beautiful words and lessons.

I find that when terrible events like Boston happen I tend toward the opposite—I get writer’s block, mostly due to fear that I anything I have to say will sound trite, or that using an event like Boston to spin a yarn, which I do for a (unpaid) living, is unseemly. Sort of like jumping on a bandwagon—we all do it for sports teams and bands (and why not?) but no matter how legitimate and worthy writing about terrible events actually is, I personally freeze up.

A good part of this might be my Midwestern upbringing—we tend to keep our heads down and deal. Our version of, “Keep calm and carry on.” We don’t like making a fuss, especially if we’re not directly involved.

At the same time, I can think of little else and at least the urge to write is there. So instead of whipping out a Huffington Post-like essay full of valuable lessons, I will simply and plainly tell you some of what I’ve been thinking this week, along with my tears:

  • One picture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was clearly taken when he was about twelve. I have a five-year-old son, and though I know my heart should be with only the victims, all I could think was: What made one boy kill another? How many moments does it take to turn a seemingly precious boy, someone’s son, into a murderer?
  • I saw a few segments on the local news about runners gathering in honor of the marathoners and the sport of running and I thought, “Well, it didn’t really have to do with running. I know some marathoners acted heroically, but I think instead we should gather in honor of little boys and restaurant managers and students.” At my 5K race this morning, I didn’t feel a bond with runners. I felt, as I have all week, a bond with fellow citizens and, especially, mothers. I suppose we all lean toward the light that feeds us.
  • As most of us did, I watched news reports on Friday and ached and worried for the citizens of Boston and Watertown, and sent good wishes to those I know. I wondered what I would say to my own children had I needed to keep them indoors, and felt for those poor families. But do you know what honestly, truthfully, made me ache more? One broadcaster’s statement after the standoff was over that the residents had had to live in fear “for a whole day.” Emphasis his. Maybe it was the words, maybe it was the way he said it, but I immediately, perhaps defensively, thought, “Gosh, a large part of the rest of the world must be thinking, ‘Only a day? Lucky Americans.’”
  • I often lambasted myself for having the above thoughts. I’m also Irish Catholic, ancestrally speaking, so I have the guilt complex down pat.

Now I feel better. A good reminder that when you write, tell the truth. It always works.

2 thoughts on “Writing about Boston

  1. I, too, couldn’t help but think about those two young men as someone’s little boys, and I wonder how they went so terribly wrong. Your comment about wondering how the rest of the world felt brought to mind the photo I saw this morning: pic.twitter.com/QmGgTKqKlJ. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and emotions.

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