The Host

November 24, 2013

Betsy Warland read the following piece aloud at a literary dinner I attended recently. The room was struck dumb, a heretofore impossible achievement among this group of turbo-engaging writers. Writing has variously been described as an act of control and a letting go of the self, but I have never encountered Betsy’s invocation of writing as an extreme act of submission. The truth of her piece caused a reality shift inside me. Here it is:

from The Memoir Project 2013
by Betsy Warland

It is a common assumption that we humans (and certainly, we writers) feed upon other forms of life around us; that these various forms of life are there for our use. As I sit here wondering what to write next, I look out the window at early-summer’s countless hues and shapes of leaves, watch strangers walk by, hear the protective caws of crows around their nests. It’s then I’m reminded that all of life – without cease – is voraciously feeding upon me. That I’m a host for all narrative life forms to have their eating frenzies upon. Am bombarded by their appetite for my attention; my submission.

Writing, in fact, is a desperate act. When I give way to this – I encounter these hungry ones with an inventiveness that moves me (and them) beyond sheer survival.

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