Writers are Dragon Slayers
A Blast from the Past
Allow me to introduce you to Thomas Paine.
“THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right (not only to TAX) but "to BIND us in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER" and if being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God.”
That paragraph can be found in a small pamphlet written by Mr. Paine called “The Crisis,” and it was published on December 23, 1776. The survival of a new nation was hanging by a thread, and Mr. Paine felt the need to speak out.
I get goose bumps every single time I read those words.
Mr. Paine was slaying dragons with his pen.
Today most of us do not have to dip a pen in an ink well, but we can accomplish the same thing using our computer keyboard.
Are there any dragons you’d like to slay?
Feelings of Inadequacy
The Web is a vast, strange and, at times, frightening place….as is the world in general. Seven-point-two billion people, a horde of such proportions as to leave us feeling, dare I say, insignificant.
As I write these words, I sit in my little writing studio in Olympia, Washington. I mix and match verbs and nouns, play with metaphors and toss in a dollop of similes, all in the hopes that I will somehow reach a couple thousand people.
A couple thousand of the seven-point-two billion.
What possible difference can my words make?
What a monumental lesson in futility.
And yet, tomorrow I will get up and do it all again, and the next day as well, and while you are at it, pencil in the remainder of my life….ten, twenty, thirty years of more folly and more futility.
Thank God Thomas Paine didn’t allow feelings of futility to derail his thoughts and prevent him from writing his monumental work.
When Paine wrote the aforementioned words, the American Revolution was experiencing its darkest days. There was a very real possibility that the Rebels would suffer defeat in the coming months, and truthfully, there were many Colonists who hoped that would happen.
2.5 million people lived in the Colonies at that time, and word was spread on horseback.
Still, Paine wrote.
When he finished writing “The Crisis,” he took it to a printer and had copies made, and then distributed those copies by hand and by local carriers.
And darkness became light, and hope overcame hopelessness. The fortunes of war shifted, and a new country emerged.
Did one man win the war with his words?
Did one man make a difference with his words?
Just One Man’s Opinion
“Action is greater than writing. A good man is a nobler object of contemplation than a great author. There are but two things worth living for: to do what is worthy of being written; and to write what is worthy of being read.”
I have very little patience with indifference.
For that matter, I have very little patience with those who have a talent, and yet fail to utilize that gift to the max.
Here’s an amazing statistic for you to chew on this day: my articles have been read, online, by more people than those who read “The Crisis” in 1776. The internet has made it possible for me to not only speak out about social injustice, but to be read by millions, and quite frankly, I am blown away by that fact.
And each of you reading this today should be in awe as well.
So, what are you going to do?
Are you going to allow your literary sword to rust and become dull from complacency, or are you going to wield it to strike down the dragons?
I believe writers have a responsibility. We have been given a gift, and I believe that gift must be used to speak out, to raise awareness, and to be the voice of the masses.
Will you accept the challenge?
Let Me Clarify
When I started on this writing path, I was filled with indignation. The firebrand of my youth was reborn, and I vowed to take on worthy causes, to strike down injustice with my words, and to speak for those who had no voice. Did I believe I could change society? No, but I did believe I could change a few people by raising awareness about issues, and considering the state of the world today, any change would be better than no change.
And so I wrote about homelessness, and sex trafficking. I wrote about the abandoned, the forlorn, the hopeless and the downtrodden. I wrote about government corruption and misuse of public funds. I wrote about compassion, love, charity and goodwill.
Did I make a difference? I don’t know. I hope so. What I do know for certain, though, is that I didn’t allow the dire affairs of today’s world to change me. Instead of cowering in a cocoon, I stood up and spoke out. I used whatever talents I had to try to affect change.
And that is my challenge to you!
Of course I don’t expect you to do this with each article that you write. Everyone has to make a living…even writers. We write what sells, and so we write our recipes and how craft articles; we write our travel articles and our DIY articles; and we make some money and pay our bills and live to fight another day.
What I am hoping, however, is that on occasion you will pick up your sword and find a dragon to slay. Whatever issue you deem important, write about it. Raise awareness about the environment, animal cruelty, adoption, or verbal abuse. Raise awareness about divorce, drug addiction, corruption, or dysfunctional families. Tackle issues of substance, and in so doing, feed your soul and join Thomas Paine, and thousands like him, in being the voice of your generation.
A wonderful example from my friend John
- The Little Children Cry in Vain (a poem)
A poem about social injustice particularly in Africa and 'what is termed 'Third World' countries and the apathy of the rest of the world and people in general.
Will you accept my challenge?
Once a Month
That’s what I’m asking you to do….once a month, write an article that is red meat rather than vegan. Pour your heart and soul into an issue. Leave nothing left unsaid. Use your gift to elevate the level of discussion and discourse in this world.
Slay the twin dragons of complacency and apathy with your words.
Can you do it?
Once a month?
Spend the remainder of this month planning, and then let’s see November inundated with articles we can all be proud of.
Can you do it?
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”