“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
There are many reasons I should not write. It is hard work and it takes a lot of my time. Closeted in my “woman-cave” bent over my computer, I become unavailable to friends and family, my exercise program crumbles, meals are hastily thrown together, my sleep is interrupted. And worse, I willingly put myself in the path of constant rejection. So why write?
I write because I love to write and I love to read. I love everything about books: the covers that promise hours of enchantment, their heft in my hands, the sweetly musky smell. I love rows of
books stacked neatly on bookshelves. I love remembering first book, its colorful pictures, the delight of learning to translate the symbols on the page into words that conjured fantastical thoughts, faraway places, exciting ideas. I find comfort in bookshops and libraries. I love being surrounded by books and by people who love books.
I learned to love writing from my heroes; Mark Twain, Sylvia Plath, Wallace Stegner, Maya Angelou, Anias Nin, Jon Hassler, Amy Tan, Elizabeth Berg, Richard Russo, Barbara Kingsolver…and so many others. Their words drew me in, not moralizing, prideful words, but awkward stumbling words, anguished, hurting words that gave voice to my feelings. Thrilling words, words pulsing with danger. Angry words, hateful words. And words pregnant with joy, melodic with peace and love. I loved them all. Their words opened new worlds to me, urged me to revisit old ones, challenged my beliefs, made me laugh and sent tears streaming down my face; told me who I was and showed me who I wanted to be.
I love everything about the “Worddom” and I want to be a part of it. I want to provide a link in the wordchain to our children’s children and their children’ children. I want them to know my stories and my truths. It is why I compulsively, painstakingly, rummage through dictionaries, thesauri and lexicons for that one word that compels the reader to feel the emotion, see the landscape, love the character, believe in her. And once retrieved, it is why I must measure its texture and its heft in my mind, imagine its hue, hear its sound. It must tell the truth.
This kind of writing does not come easy for me. By nature, a curious soul, I am easily distracted by the “busy-ness” and business of writing; intimidated by the daily deluge of blogs, posts and tweets, hawking elite and pricey workshops, conferences and retreats where I am sure to optimize my platform and craft a best-seller. And above all, I am admonished to devote large blocks of time daily to write, regardless of how inappropriate, to write anything at all, no matter how nonsensical and vapid, in order to attain my daily “word count”. Oddly, there is little in this daily digital tirade about the art of reading or the craft of writing. I wonder what Mark Twain’s reaction would be. Somehow I don’t see him worrying about his Twitter account.
But, this is the digital age, after all, and I acknowledge its importance as well as the need for marketing. I maintain a blog, a Facebook page and a Twitter account. I read blogs. I subscribe to writers magazines and attend a few workshops. All of this is helpful and entertaining. But I have decided to spend what time I have to reading and word-smithing. If this brings my truth to the written page, and if my words touch the hearts of a reader or two, it will be enough.