Bench of Solace

by Ernest Armah

Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation

– Graham Greene

In biographies and other narratives I have read, I have met writers who shed ink on paper like tears from their cheeks. The blank space of books became their private hospital where they nursed all manner of wounds. They were both doctor and patient. The pen became a stethoscope they put to paper to sound all twinges ongoing in their hearts. Eventually their private pain became public gain.
For many people out there like me, writing has been our bench of solace. Marianne Moore in her poem “Picking and Choosing” said this aptly:

Literature is a phase of life. If one is afraid of it, the situation is irremediable; if one approaches it familiarly, What one says is worthless

I think that non-writers take words for granted. They may get the semantic meaning of words, but they may never understand how it sounds to the ears, risqué or please the mind before sitting on the heart. Writers do understand however.
For this reason, writers can be very powerful people. Some may not necessarily change the world in a conspicuous way but may have a smaller niche where they shoot their arrow of words. Whether amateurs like me or professionals like Dan Brown, writers have a way of crafting their deepest dissatisfactions, hurts, joy and happiness into ideas and messages which move the heart of many.
And it is more interesting when writers are in love. Before expounding more on this, listen to some observations from celebrated novelists. In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen said “We are all fools in love”. A character in Nicholas Sparks’ The Last Song said, “The next time you’re mad at me, talk to me. Don’t shut me out. I don’t like playing games. And by the way, I had a great time, too” (hope you saw the sharp contrast). In Stephanie Meyer’s New Moon, a character said “when I told you I didn’t want you it was the blackest kind of blasphemy”.
Let me sum it up with a quote from Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, “You see, I love you. And love is exception-making. If you were in love you’d want to be broken, trampled, ordered, dominated, because that’s the impossible, in the inconceivable for you in your relations with people. That would be the one gift, the great exception you’d want to offer the man you loved. But it wouldn’t be easy for you”.
When writers in love fight, there is accidental birth of stories. In the midst of discord among them, another blank book is taken which becomes their court, and the pen transforms from stethoscope to an attorney to argue out their cases. The interesting thing however is that they sort out their cases before judgment is delivered.
After they have punched, yelled, smacked, yanked, cursed, on paper, they go back to sit on the bench of solace. There, they read their tragedy with a lens of comedy. A writer’s world is a complicated place.

They wrestle with many things only their kind could see. Virtually, their books are scarred and their pens are broken from battles the world never heard of. God has always been their witness.