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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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