It’s a question I have asked myself often. That is until last week.
When formulating articles for public consumption, once the article has been written or before motivating myself to begin, I try to think of the benefit. Both the therapeutic benefit to myself for having committed my thoughts to writing, and to the public.
But the question is not whether people will read this, but whether this article will change another as much as it changed me from struggling to write it. It’s hard to write articles like these. Every time it seems like an impossible task. That it would be better to close the computer and go to sleep. But to persevere amidst this inner struggle means two things. The first is that since the yetzer harah (evil inclination) is working hard, then the result, this article, really does need to be written. And secondly, that maybe since the inner struggle was so difficult, then perhaps some of you really needed to read this.
In literature, there is a first-person style called confessional writing whereby the writer searches deep within in order to reveal something personal about themselves. But whereas I endeavor to write these articles from within, I try and limit the personal backdrop behind each piece. The reason for this is that while the act of searching within oneself is integral to the writing experience, my personal details aren’t necessarily something that are relevant to you or that needs to be shared with the world.
This article is about bridging the gap. Of reaching deep within in order to hopefully make a difference out here in the world. But as we will now explain, the process of writing a confessional piece has a few nuances to it.
Confessional vs. Teshuvah
Before progressing further it should be clarified that what the world calls confessional writing, we call the act of teshuvah (returning to God and His Torah). At the moment we don’t feel capable of writing, when we want to close the computer and go to sleep, if our motivation is genuine, then our drive to persevere still should come from a greater power. As long as we view ourselves as the ones who have decided to stay up and write, then this is good, but this is still not yet the level we aspire to. Instead, when we sit down to write amidst the discomfort and scheming of the evil inclination, and then we draw a blank and don’t know how to possibly continue. Then from that moment of giving up on even our most carefully planned thoughts, then true Torah, a true essay can emerge.
Thus if confessional writing is penning about ourselves, teshuvah writing is penning thoughts and Torah that is beyond ourselves. But because of our willingness to inspire another, God helps, and we somehow come up with what to say.
As we began, the first implication of the approach now being presented is that writing from within is therapeutic for the writer. As I wrote in a previous article it is good idea for those that have undergone various trials in life to write on a regular basis. And as mentioned there, from experience, this writings tends to be full of richness and correct intuition. Again, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the writer recounts their trials. Perhaps they will. But from their motivation to persevere through these trials, and come closer to God, their true writing potential is revealed.
Now that an introduction has been given, the rest of this essay will discuss the second implication of confessional, now termed teshuvah, writing. And that is that by means of crushing, of pressing oneself (like an olive press), pure light is revealed from the essence of our being. It is this light can affect widespread change, as in the Chassidic adage, “a little light dispels a great amount of darkness.”