Thursday, January 7, 2010

On Writing

I've been writing since I was about fourteen. I'm not too sure why other than things seemed to have more permanence if I wrote them down. Each day the sun will rise and set but the day is not mine unless I make note of its passing. The writing grows from that simple root, in that while every day begins with the dawn no two days dawning are ever identical. To emphasize the obvious, I'm talking about the fact that on some days the sun is obscured by clouds or rain or being too lazy to make note of it. Or the day promises heat or the still expectancy of something about to happen. It is that expectation rather than the day itself that prompts me to write.

There are a million differences in the day. Just as no two people are alike, so too are the differences in each day. Frankly, I've a hunch most people don't see the differences. Life for them must be a tale of dull repetition. For me, it's waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Most of my writing has been of a technical nature, an effort to explain the obscure in friendlier terms. Which works well enough for things that are fixed and will not change from one person to another, such as replacing a washer in a water faucet and sending the insidious drip-dripping to hell. But try to apply those writing skills to something as obtuse as human emotion and you'll quickly learn why there are writers... and then there are writers, which begs the question: Which one are you? It's possible that you have the rare spark of genius that is the foundation of every writer that is any good at all.

Anyone capable of communicating via the written word is a writer in the broadest definition of the term. Indeed, think about it for a minute and you will see that literally everything around you, from the slogan on the side of beer truck to: 'He is my friend, faithful and just to me;' is the product of a writer although clearly now we see some are better than others.

Within a fairly narrow range, writing may be learned, so long as we restrict that definition to grammar, spelling and the like. Which means you may have that spark of genius, smoldering beneath the ashes like coals in a stove. I think everyone should brush away those ashes, to see if they can coax fire from those coals. Because if you can, you owe it to those who can't.

Everyone who has every written anything at all eventually tries their hand at real writing, such as a novel, stage play or movie script. That's when you discover it might be wise to stick to washers, fixing faucets and explaining why you must loosen the lug-nuts before jacking up the wheel.

"You should write a book!" (Heard not once but many times.) The truth is, I already have -- and several times over. But the chore isn't the writing of a book, which isn't all that difficult. The secret is in selling what you've written. For without the incentive of good, old fashioned money there isn't any reason to spend the endless hours to find the perfect word needed to convey the image of the sun sliding slowly out of sight behind Catalina.

So thank you. Knowing you've found something of worth in what I've written is warmly appreciated.