I just realize that we start out in these very awkward ways, and we do look a little stupid as we draft, and that’s all right … You have to be willing to go into the chaos and bring back the beauties.
Writers are not born, writers make a choice at some point in their life to commit to the process - as frustrating and hard as that process is. It’s an uphill climb from the first day. Every sentence is time-consuming, every haiku matters and article or blog post deserve one’s undivided attention. Writers are not different from bakers, sculptors, artists or athletes – all are perfectionists, trying to master their respective craft.
[The writer] must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid: and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed—love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.
Writers do not simply get a paragraph down to get it out of the way. Words do not just fly, perfectly ordered, from the writer’s head and into your hands for you to feast on. Writers sketch and ponder before they build; they throw away the scraps and dust a paragraph and look at it later in daylight. They know when to approach their work with a tiny hammer and an apprehensive hand. Writers chisel, bend and paint. Writers repaint and polish before they present. And when they lay a finished product in your hand, take it for what it is. Turn the box into a shelf; experience it however you want, but do not ask the writer to tear it apart to show you how it all began. Do not expect the writer to come at it with a sharp knife and dissect a sentence for your satisfaction. Why should the writer have to talk you through their choices and explain every simile, every metaphor? All writing is personal, all writing is imaginative.
The translation of experience or thought into words is of itself an imaginative process. Although there is certainly such a thing as truth in writing, and we can spot falsity when we encounter it in print, these qualities are hard to define, hard to describe, and do not always depend on factual accuracy or inaccuracy … Between the two impossibilities–of perfectly capturing your experience in words and of avoiding it altogether–lies the territory we call “creative.”
Ay, there’s the rub! Creativity is what we lack as a community, as a generation, as a whole. We have become ingenious consumers but are still, somehow, insipid followers. We are no longer a culture of readers and writers; those words intimidate us. We are afraid to commit to the process of writing, failing, rewriting and all that it entails. We are afraid of exploring emotion and drowning in a sea of words. ”I can’t write, I don’t know how, I don’t like, I disagree, I won’t, I don’t, I can’t” is our mantra. We condition our writing with excuses: “but I only, I just, maybe I can, with help I could.” This inability to articulate thought gives birth to prejudiced readers: readers who want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, simply because they are unaware of what it means to write or what lies within words. Succinct and to the point, cut and dry, unequivocal – like a weather report - that is what the 21st century consumer/reader expects. The reader/consumer is inexperience and gullible. He or she does not understand that ”a writer doesn’t solve problems. He [sic] allows them to emerge” (Friedrich Dürrenmatt). Writers may bear the brunt of the work but for their writing to make the slightest difference the reader must step up and acknowledge his or her role in the equation. A worldly well-versed reader can challenge the writer and only then can dialogue occur; when both parties (the writer and the reader) are proactive participants on either side of the word.