A Paucity of Hope

With thanks to Ron Lacson for the inspiration, in Writing… and us. According to Ron, I inspired him to write that, yesterday, with my post, Nothing Left to Say. Ron writes that, “because most writers articulate how they view the world and craft their piece as a tool to share their dreams and values; their success and failures; their fears and visions, it then follows that in writing there is always hope.” Suffice it to say that yesterday’s post represented a paucity of hope.


Resolution

Bloggers are like chronic dieters. Each New Year’s Eve, they carefully craft a set of resolutions that includes the promise to write, if not daily, then at least weekly. There’s something to be said for this; as most writers know, the best way to have written is to apply butt to chair and write. Daily. It’s a noble goal, but their resolve rarely lasts beyond February.

The obvious problem is that while we should write daily, if we’re going to lay claim to being writers or bloggers, not every word is publishable. And writing practice includes a thoughtful email, a Facebook post, a comment, a paragraph or two of a larger work. Some novelists are prolific; they churn out several books in a year. Others have taken a decade to write just one.

Commitment

Do we really “fall short of our commitments” if we realize, halfway through, that we’ve made the wrong commitment? I think the answer depends, in part, on whether that commitment was to ourselves, and whether anyone else really cares if we stop and regroup along the way.

Consider this commitment, instead: To do my best, and to be kind to myself when I fall short of my loftiest goals and ambitions, and to be exactly as kind to myself as I am to others. To write when I have thought deeply and allowed my thoughts time to coalesce. To live fully and to think deeply, every day.

Ron’s motto, here, is a good one:


But as I said to Ron, sometimes it’s wise not to share those thoughts with others until the water cools enough not to scald their brains. Unless we’ve chosen, consciously, to light the world on fire.

Wisdom

Because words have power, they shouldn’t be tossed around carelessly. Sometimes, editing is diplomacy. Sometimes, diplomacy is wise; sometimes, it’s merely dishonest. We should ask ourselves if we’re being honest and just, before we wield our words. 

That’s not always easy for us writers, by the way. We love to play with words. We toss and juggle them, delighting in the sounds they make inside our heads. Sometimes, what we think is a ball is really a bomb.

Judgement

We writers tend to be our own harshest critics. Judgement should be left to the readers, once we’ve done our best. They’re generally kinder than we are, even when they’re not being all that kind.

Writing for others requires empathy. Even writing a technical manual requires empathy and understanding of the reader’s needs and motivation to read the book. When we can see the work from others’ perspectives, we grow as writers. When we know that we’ve done our best and deemed it worthy of publishing, a harsh word here or there shouldn’t make us crumble like a stale cookie.

Imagination

Ron refers to himself as a “man with more dreams than sense.” I’d argue that the world needs more men with dreams and imagination, to create visions for its future. That’s where hope comes from – solid visions of a better future.

In fiction, it’s at least as important to have a knack for storytelling as it is to know where to put the commas.

Motivation

Ron asks, “Why do many folks write (even at times when it’s hard to write)?” I’d ask, “Why do so many people write, even when they claim to hate writing?” 

I think that just as some people are driven to pass on their DNA through their children, some of us are driven to pass on our thoughts, or ideas, our hopes and dreams, our mental visions to readers of the future.

But also, today, in the here and now – to have a conversation with other people, to connect – however briefly – with other minds and souls.

Escape & Capture

Ron notes that, “…once you started to act like you wanted to write them on paper and record them, your thoughts and ideas will leave you like they never knew you and they are never to be found again, until perhaps when you become inspired to look for them again.”

This is every writer’s lament – yes, even the prolific ones – and why the smart writer carries a notebook or a small recording device everywhere. My best ideas come fully formed and fleeting in the shower, or in the car. It’s as if they know they can’t be captured on wet paper or written down while my hands are on the wheel!

Power

True, This! —
Beneath the rule of men entirely great
The pen is mightier than the sword. Behold
The arch-enchanters wand! — itself is nothing! —
But taking sorcery from the master-hand
To paralyse the Cæsars, and to strike
The loud earth breathless! — Take away the sword —
States can be saved without it!

English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839 for his play Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy. The pen is mightier than the sword, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=The_pen_is_mightier_than_the_sword&oldid=614217175 (last visited July 24, 2014).

To wield such power is heady stuff, indeed – or terrifying, if you think about it too long. All writing is manipulative. A careful reader knows this, and chooses – consciously – to allow and enjoy it for a bit, as in the case of fantasy or romance – or to fight against it, in the case of news and propaganda, employing his own experience, education, and wisdom to the battle, until he willingly surrenders or emerges victorious.

Nakedness

Ron claims that “there is no pretense in writing.” I disagree; but despite that – despite whatever artifice we writers may employ – there is nakedness in it.

 Paul Gallico wrote, “It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader.” In 1949, columnist Walter Winchell wrote, “Red Smith was asked if turning out a daily column wasn’t quite a chore. … ‘Why, no’, dead-panned Red. ‘You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.'”

from Red Smith (sportswriter), http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Red_Smith_(sportswriter)&oldid=614626252 (last visited July 24, 2014).

Truly powerful, persuasive, immersive writing scrapes the bone. 

“We are what we write,” says Ron. That doesn’t bode well for writers of murder mysteries…

But we do reveal some part of our innermost selves through our writing. We share our fears, our hopes, our nightmares. We share the playgrounds that exist in our imaginations, and invite readers in to play.

HollyJahangiri

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at http://amazon.com/author/hollyjahangiri. For more information on her children's books, please visit http://jahangiri.us/books.
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9 thoughts on “A Paucity of Hope”

  1. Hi Holly, first timer here. This hits home for me, as someone who writes daily as a marketing consultant, but is only just know self-identifying as a writer. Working to find the distinctions between writing, sharing and blogging…and to not be distracted by what I think people want to read, vs. what I want to write. And you’re correct, that some of our best stuff isn’t meant for others. A month ago I had the incredible privilege of supporting my aunt at the end of her life. I wrote about it every day. The act of writing helped me process the experience, and someday I MIGHT do something with it. And perhaps not. I had the experience, I wrote about it, and it may just stay with me. Thanks for this post.
    Kim Tackett recently posted…just the two of us :: the selfie duetMy Profile

    1. Welcome, Kim!

      I was a tech writer for near nearly 30 years. Also did some MarCom. And I’ve been blogging on and off – mostly on – since the late 1990s. I blogged – and shared – the experience of my own bout with breast cancer (albeit behind a password so the unwary didn’t fall into that without warning). I find it more difficult, and sometimes inappropriate, to share the more intimate experiences of others – even if they’re mine, too. But writing about things privately does help us process them, and to see, years later, how our thinking and emotions have changed. Because usually, once we’ve “processed” things, they do change. But sometimes it’s good to see the progress, too, and to remember.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…A Paucity of HopeMy Profile

  2. Wow!! I don’t know what to say…, I mean write. :). Thank you. I love how you dissert my post. I really do. It also catapulted me another perspective which is a revelatory experience.
    It is always a joy to read your write-up Holly.

    Just to quote an excerpt from your post… “My best ideas come fully formed and fleeting in the shower, or in the car.” I showed it to my son this morning and asked him – “So where’s yours?”. “Mine?,” he replied “while watching ‘The Amazing Race.’” (he’s 15 years old). I guess we all get our finest ideas crystallized in different ways and at different venues (may also depend on how old we are 🙂 ).

    Thank you again.
    Ron recently posted…Writing… and usMy Profile

    1. Interesting observation by your son! I wonder if our brains have to be distracted, or bored, in order to come up with creative ideas? Hah! I just Googled it – looks like they do: http://blog.bufferapp.com/why-we-have-our-best-ideas-in-the-shower-the-science-of-creativity

      Relaxed, distractable, and full of dopamine seems to be the key.

      Also, read this: http://lifehacker.com/5994010/why-ideas-pop-into-your-head-when-youre-trying-to-fall-asleep

      Thank you for helping me to crystallize my thoughts on this, Ron! I love it when others’ blog posts actually spark a new thought, or when one of mine does, for someone else. There’s been too little of that in blogging, lately – at least too little of it for me. You and Damyanti seem to get my brain moving with your posts.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Nothing Left to SayMy Profile

  3. I love what you said about making the wrong commitment at New Year’s. I sometimes feel like I have made the wrong resolutions after only a couple of months into the year. Perhaps resolutions should come with giving yourself some grace when you recognize that it wasn’t the right one!

    1. That’s an excellent idea, Rachel! I decided, last year, to celebrate quarterly “new” years. That gives me four chances to create and revise goals. There is a difference between not fully committing, and fully committing but later realizing that the original goal was all wrong. It was hard to teach this one to my kids. On the one hand, when you start something you should finish it; on the other hand, if that something is making you and everyone around you utterly miserable, or keeping you from doing something that matters more (to you and/or others), then let it go… move on. Just don’t leave a string of worthy ambitions unachieved and lying in your wake because you got bored, or they seem too hard, or some other shiny new thing caught your eye.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Let Go of the Dots!My Profile

  4. ““We are what we write,” says Ron. That doesn’t bode well for writers of murder mysteries…”

    I’ve always looked at it as “you write what you are” – because, as a writer, you don’t know how to do anything else.

    You can do that shallowly and faintly – or you can go whole hog and dig into the deepest recesses of who you are and how you feel about life and what you think things should be like.

    You can even write how you think things are as filtered through everything you see and hear around you.

    But it is the writer who is indispensable, the thing that is unique about the story. Which makes me seriously worry about my own fiction, since writing that way is very revealing.

    If anyone is listening.

    The novels of the past that I’ve connected with have taught me the ideas of the writers who created them.

    Maybe it’s because I write now, but I see Margaret Mitchell’s imprint all over what she wrote, and think of her as much as I think of Scarlett.
    Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt recently posted…From PLAN to PUBLISHED, writers make events HAPPENMy Profile

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