The Writing Workshop: Writers of the World, You Are Appreciated
“The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.” ~Vladimir Nabakov
Isn’t that a marvelous quote? Does it not perfectly capture that which we all attempt to do when writing?
When I was a teacher there would always be an end-of-the-year staff meeting at which time we would discuss the next-year’s budget with the principal and members of the school board. It was a particularly nervous time for those teachers who taught the fringe subjects like Art and Band, because if there was a tight budget, their subjects would inevitably get the axe.
I found that sad then and I still find it sad today. The world needs artists, writers, sculptors and musicians. Not every child is gifted in book learning; some….no, many…need a creative outlet that only the Arts can provide.
In fact, I’ll take it a step further and say that much of the beauty in our lives would be missing if we did not have those who create beauty through their words, drawings and musical compositions. They are the ones who provide a safe haven from the struggles of everyday life. They are the ones who find beauty in insanity and manage to find special meaning in the mundane. They are the ones who….expand our consciousness….and give our souls a vehicle on which to travel the roads of life.
I was a voracious reader as a child. No matter where I went I always had my baseball glove and a book with me. They were my constant companions, my treadmills for the body and mind. I loved the storylines in books, watching as the author developed the story, added and defined characters, and brought to life adventures that fueled my dreams. However, it wasn’t until I read “To Kill A Mockingbird,” that I actually gave thought to possibly being a writer.
In that masterful piece by Harper Lee I saw the power of the written word. I discovered that a writer not only tells a story but also, somehow, reaches into the very heart of the audience and brings emotions to life. The great writers, like Lee, have the ability to describe a scene so perfectly that you can actually feel as if you are standing in that scene. The great writers, like Lee, can use words instead of a camera to capture the intricacies and subtleties of life.
I wanted to be like Harper Lee, to write the next great American masterpiece, and yet I suspected that what Lee had was talent while what I had was desire and nothing more.
Still, I dreamed! Several years passed and then a high school teacher casually remarked that I might have some writing ability but it would take work and willingness on my part if I was to develop that ability into a talent. With that one simple statement my own personal quest began.
So I dabbled in my craft for decades, making progress and then derailing when obstacles presented themselves. Still the thought remained….someday….someday… I would give writing a real chance.
And today I am doing exactly that!
They are many, are they not? Where to find the time? Where to find the solitude? Where to find the readers? How to market yourself and on and on we go. Still, for me, the biggest obstacle, and my constant companion throughout, is the terrifying possibility that I might not be good enough. When all else fails I can always count on self-doubt to rear its ugly head and send me shrieking for the safety of my own psychological closet, never to come out again.
Am I the only one who feels that way? I doubt it seriously! I think there is, in any writer, painter, sculptor or musician, the insidious cancer of self-doubt with regards to our talent. Our work will never be good enough. Our work will never satisfy that burning desire we have to get it just right, to finally ring all the bells and grab our own personal brass ring.
Perhaps, though, it should be exactly that way! Perhaps art of any form should always be the quest for perfection and yet the inevitable falling short. Still, Harper Lee never wrote another book after “Mockingbird,” stating that her life’s work was rolled up neatly in that tale of injustice, and that she would never again be able to reach that level of near-perfection. Can you imagine? Writing something that so mirrors life that you realize you will never again reach that pinnacle?
There is a hunger in each of us, and the meal we wish to consume will always be slightly under-cooked or slightly over-cooked. Such is the nature of our internal torment.
Still……like a starving man on a desert island, we rejoice when a minnow swims too close to shore and is snatched by our hands. We feed on it and then, looking around for more, we savor the memory of that minnow for weeks. One word of praise will send our hearts soaring and we hungrily sit down at the computer and begin to write again. We live with the inevitable ebb and flow of praise and acceptance, the dual-headed gourmet meal that sustains us.
On rare occasions, when minnows are nowhere in sight, we find a word choice, a phrase, near-perfectly crafted, and we look in the mirror and nod our heads, briefly satisfied with ourselves.
Yes, there is a hunger in each of us, but we never starve. Our hunger is fueled by our passion for our craft, and a certain satisfaction is gained on the worst of days because the simple act of doing is enough to bring a smile to our faces.
SO APPRECIATION IS IN ORDER
Think about this for a moment: there are 171,476 current words in the English language. There are an additional 47,156 obsolete words at our disposal. They are available to each of us to use. We begin with the same tools as the masters who came before us. The same words used by thousands of writers before us, and yet when they are put on paper (or computer) they become uniquely ours, never written before in such a manner.
Each one of us brings our own emotions, our own experiences, in fact, a large part of who we are, to each and every written piece that we craft. We leave our own legacy for the world to see every single time we figuratively put pen to paper.
We experience the same doubts as Hemingway, Steinbeck and Lee experienced. We find the same satisfaction in writing as Blake, Bronte and Tennyson found. They laid the foundations upon which we build a new generation of written structures, and our work will stand the test of time, just as theirs did.
We write for others and we write for ourselves. We speak out against injustice and we praise the glories that surround us. We inform, cajole, decry and rally!
We are the Elizabethan poets of our time, the 50’s coffee house beatniks and the 21st Century Thoreaus, each of us finding a way to keep the light shining in an ever-darkening world.
We are writers and what we do is important!
So take this moment to pat yourself on the back. Take this moment to look in the mirror and tell yourself that it is all worth it, because it is. While the modern day world continues unabated, rarely slowing down to smell the proverbial rose or reach out a hand in compassion, we will continue to be the voices that represent all that is good about humanity. We will continue to speak for those who have no voice, be the eyes for those who are blind and describe the sensations for those who cannot feel.
This is our calling! This is our quest! This is what fuels our souls and brings joy to our hearts!
So, as one of you, I say thank you! Thank you for bringing beauty into the world one word at a time. Thank you for swimming against the tide of progress and slowing down the hectic pace of life. Thank you for finding the words that bring color to an otherwise black and white world.
I am proud to be a writer. I hope you are as well!
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
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