I so enjoyed Word for Word: A Writer’s Life by Laurie Lisle. I highlighted, wrote in the margins and tabbed pages.
Being a writer is so intertwined with being who you are, whoever that may be. You cannot separate your growth as a writer from your growth as a human being. Experience, I believe, makes us better writers and also better people. At least I hope so. It is a holistic evolution.
Lisle expresses this so well in her telling of her own, very personal account of evolving as a writer and as a woman in modern America. She does not ignore the backdrop of the events of the times and the effects those events have had on her personally. This is especially true regarding the Women’s Movement since she is of that age. Lisle uses herself as an example of how we all struggle to be true to ourselves within a culture that tries so hard to deny us our identities. She shares her struggle for independence, her doubts about motherhood, and her deep desire to put writing first.
Although our backgrounds are very different, I relate as a writer. More importantly, I relate as a writer who is a woman. Lisle has refused to play a secondary role in her own life as has been traditionally expected of women. I share that deep desire to be heard, after a lifetime of being quiet. She expresses this well when she writes, “The world could get along without my words, but could I get away without expressing them?” The world does need her words, though. The world needs all our words. We have been shushed far too long and it is our turn to tell our truths, to write history from a female perspective.
Lisle tackles marriage and divorce, childlessness. She separates her own needs from what she has been taught to think she needs. She figures out what she needs as a writer and as a woman. She has learned to accept her true self over societal expectations.
Because of her background as a journalist, Lisle apparently kept copious notes and journaled throughout her life, enabling her to write this memoir in great detail. Those details make all the difference in grounding us in time and place, allowing us to see the personal in relation to the public sphere.
Word for Word is a lovely book. Lisle writes as though she is a personal friend to the reader, sharing her deepest thoughts and secrets. Whether you are a writer or a woman who seeks a creative life in some other realm, or even a woman in search of her own true self, this book will be a comfort to you.