A Note About Writing – Albert

Writing is more than just putting words on a page in a manner acceptable to the proper people. When we put words on a page, whether it be a letter to a friend or a novel, we are making a choice. In fact, we are making choice after choice after choice. This is perhaps one of the reasons that we find writing so discomfiting. Each new sentence is a blind corner on the road to our very selves. How else does a person get to know who they are accept through their thoughts and then even more palpably, through their understanding of the expression of these thoughts? While words are only one means of expression they are truly the most available for most of us. We all speak and, as they say, if you can speak you can write.

Over the last few weeks I have been reading Shakespeare in the Henry Mills State Park Amphitheatre. I would like to use this column to try to explain to you (and to me for that matter, for the process of writing is also a process of teaching yourself) what I come to learn. These thoughts will not always stay within the lines of what your high school grammar teacher told you. I am a writer and I admit that I write more by feel than I do by any explicit rule. I think that a gerund is a word ending with -ing, but I’m not 100 percent certain. This fact in no way whatsoever has any bearing on whether or not I will write well. Writing is expression first and correctness second.

A child must first understand that to write brings its own rewards. If a child can write and feel satisfaction for having created out of her own store of knowledge, even if it be faulty, that is, words mis-spelled and sentence structure askew, she will have had the basis for continuing to greater achievements in the craft. In other words, it will have felt good enough to write the story or poem that she will desire to continue.

Proper sentence structure and spelling (although many people remain bad spellers their entire life) come joined with the desire to put the words on the page. It is a process like any other craft. Most mechanics, if they put their wrench on the flywheel and turn the engine on and the wrench flies across the room, will not do it again after they watch the wrench fly through their window. The same goes for a child who writes a sentence that falters and yet does not give up, who learns, at any age, he has the right as a writer to change words around and that to “fix” a sentence is, ultimately, still a bit of a subjective judgment since writing is as valid an art form as is painting. If this does not sound true all we need to do is look at what the writing of James Joyce proved. Teachers must realize that there are also artists who use words as well as businessmen.

Enough preaching. The fact of the matter concerning writing is that if you want to have a closer relationship with yourself you could do worse than to pick up a pen or read a book for that matter. This is cliche by now, I know. Everybody on television is telling us to pick up books, but the fact of the matter, I believe, is that if you are watching people on television tell you about picking up a book you cannot be reading, can you? Toni Morrison, perhaps the finest American writer living, said this about television: “I think of it as one of those fake fireplaces, always moving and always looking just the same.”

Think about it. Television, if tuned properly can give you edification, no doubt, but the box by its very nature is not set up to include the viewer as the much slower participation in the language can afford. Just taking a guess, I would say there is much too much plot on television shows and what little character driven action there is is the result of roomfuls of 20 and thirty somethings in Hollywood trying to outdo each other for the next needed situational joke. If we turned off all of the canned laughter on the sitcoms I doubt we would be laughing half as much and the television producers understand this. You see how difficult it is for us to laugh at some of the films that are supposedly categorized under “comedy.” But don’t get me wrong. I know that I probably just sound like a failed television writer. I really do not hate television except for the fact that it keeps people 1) away from more personal interaction with life, which is after all, the final goal (or should be) of literature, both the writing and the reading of, and 2) It has a tendency to numb us to what we are feeling. But perhaps that is why people use it. Television is one of the safer mental sedatives. I, myself, used to use it instead of a sleeping pill.

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Published in: on November 15, 2009 at 8:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

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