I struggle to justify posting a blog here about writing. Most of you, I imagine, don’t write for a living per se. Composing sentences may not be your favorite thing or obsession but it is most definitely mine.
But there’s another part of me that thinks, hey, why not put down some thoughts about what it’s like to be a writer and what a writer thinks about and regrets?
You may take up writing and find it the greatest thrill of your life. Maybe you have thoughts you want to put down for posterity. Could be you want your kids and grandkids to know what was on your mind. A noble idea that might turn you on.
The best book I ever read about writing was written by a Yale writing professor named William Zinsser called On Writing Well. It was more than thirty years ago and I believe reading that book helped convince me this would be my calling because his tips were so enlightening, simple, and sensible.
Since then I’ve enjoyed reading plenty more books about how to write, construct sentences, use grammar correctly, and use effective transitions.
Most have been helpful, but none inspired me more than Zinsser’s book because it stressed a few crucial writing concepts with beautifully easy sentences, so simple to read, and so powerfully insightful—just brilliant knowledge sharing.
He wrote about keeping your writing simple and clear. At the time recommendation was counter-intuitive to what I had learned in school. College English professors often seemed to want big vocabulary words and complex sentences or so I thought. Zinsser explained the elegance of unpretentious, straightforward writing.
I have been trying to practice the elegance of ease in writing ever since.
During the past few weeks, I read another book on writing by Nicole Gulotta titled Wild Words: Rituals, Routines, and Rhythms for Braving the Writer’s Path.
From this book, I gained three important insights. First, don’t worry if only one person reads your writing or one million do. Be assured that at least one person will benefit from what you write and that will make your effort worthwhile. That’s right, even if you spend 50 hours writing an article if one person benefits you will have helped improve the world.
“I believe regardless of scale – whether you have only a few dozen readers or ten thousand – there’s someone out there who will benefit from reading the words only you can write,” she writes. “And that’s reason enough to keep at it. Besides, after a certain moment, the words are no longer yours…Let the words land where they may.”
Her second point addresses thoughts that I believe many writers have including myself. We question whether we ever should have become writers in the first place, why we put up with the countless hours alone, with little if any feedback ever, piles of rejections, no responses, and editors calling out our flaws in logic and confused thinking and not expressing appreciation for our efforts, only pointing at our mistakes.
But she writes what is true, that we can have our doubts and fantasize about doing something that doesn’t seem so arduous and unfulfilling. But true writers can’t escape this life. It’s not possible to abandon writing if you are a writer.
Have you ever wondered if not being a writer would be easier? Or what it might be like to move through life without noticing every detail, asking as many questions, or recording every idea that arrives, half-formed, in your mind? I have. But we can’t wish writing away. We can smudge but never erase our yearnings.
Writers yearn. I think about songs. The best ones seem to be about a person yearning for something they can’t have, usually love. Unmet desires. Reaching for feelings beyond our grasp.
The sense of yearning is what makes writing good, I believe. Showing you want more but can’t express how or what that means, being lost and frustrated, but continuing on anyway because, well, it’s what you have to do. Not want to do; have to do.
I am in a lull right now as a writer. I just finished a big writing project and it has left me feeling tired all the time. I now have to choose another topic to write about, not a short blog topic but a subject with a big idea that I can research and write about for several months, with obsession and concern and the attitude that before my life ends the big idea gets expressed by me in all its agony or wonder and seriousness.
Deciding on the topic is crucial. You don’t want to choose a topic that your interest fizzles on after a few weeks. It has to be lodged in your heart, screaming to be exposed, freed from the mounting pressure, stuck in there for decades, in need of being released from your mind so you don’t lose your ability to think and concentrate.
The author gets at the essence of these urges.
“What story do you need to tell right now? It’s merely a matter of which one speaks the loudest at this moment in time, and which one you’re eager to explore for the next year or two, maybe longer.”
The story I want to tell now is about writing, this short blog. But this is really just procrastination. These are not big ideas, the ones that you can’t forget and that dominate your thoughts most days and nights.
That’s coming. It has to. I feel I’m about to burst. It – whatever it is — needs to be released.
Sammy Sportface, a sports blogger, galvanizes, inspires, and amuses The Baby Boomer Brotherhood. And you can learn about his vision and join this group's Facebook page here:
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