“…it’s hard to write well about anything — it’s just damn hard to get the words down right.” David Mason, Professor of English and Creative Writing, Colorado College
Were truer words ever spoken? David Mason’s observation is so simple, yet so profound. If you’re wondering what I mean compare the following two quotes:
- “I don’t care who’s your daddy.”
- “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet”
Both groups of words say essentially the same thing. The former is infinitely forgettable. The second causes you to stop, to smile…perchance to sigh.
Whether you aspire to write the next Great American Novel or you are crafting a marketing proposal to win new business, or you’re writing a letter to your congressman, you struggle to find the precise words that will connect with both the cerebral cortex and the heart of your reader, words that will communicate your thoughts clearly and leave an impression. The converse is also true. While it’s hard to get it right, it’s quite easy to get it wrong. There’s little worse than having a reader ask “I don’t get it. What do you mean?” after you’ve spent agonizing hours crafting your written piece.
Why, if it’s so hard, do we do it then? If business writing is part of your job, the answer is obvious. But November is National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo.org) and thousands of people across the world have committed to writing a novel of 50,000 words this month. While I think most everyone would like to have a best-seller and be able to earn a living writing, I don’t believe this is their primary motivation.
After participating in writing groups with writers of vastly differing genres, ages and backgrounds, I think writers write because they believe they have something compelling to say. And I think they work really hard at getting the words right —in phrasing their thoughts in just such a way so that a fellow human, a reader, just smiles and says “Yes…I understand perfectly. I see exactly what you mean.” Ultimately, we’d also like to hear that as a result of reading our writing you, Mr./Ms. Reader, are motivated to think or behave differently so that the world becomes a better place. We can dream, can’t we?
Last night I attended the Creative Writers of Greenville Meetup, and as always, I left motivated. Whenever I hear other writers share their experiences, I am inspired to believe that I, too, can do this. In spite of its being hard, writing is worth the effort. Maybe I can write something that will entertain, amuse, comfort or maybe even inspire someone else. Isn’t that why I’m writing this blog after all?
So to all of you aspiring authors out there, especially my fellow NaNoWriMo writers this month, I’d like to end by sharing with you lines from last year’s Tony Award winning musical Something’s Rotten, the last Broadway show I got to see before I moved to South Carolina. What follows are the words sung by no less than Shakespeare himself, who, just like us, struggled with getting the words right:
“What people just don’t understand
Is that writing’s demanding
It’s mentally challenging and it’s a bore
It’s such a chore
TO sit in a room by yourself
Oh my god, I just hate it!
And you’re trying to find
An opening line or a brilliant idea
And you’re pacing the floor
And hoping for just a bit of divine intervention
That one little nugget that one little spark
Then Eureka! You find it you’re ready to start
So now you can write, right? Wrong!
You’re not even close, you remember that damn it,
Your play’s gotta be in iambic pentameter!
So you write down a word but it’s not the right word,
So you try a new word but you hate the new word
And you need a good word but you can’t find the word
Oh where is it, what is it, what is it, where is it!
Blah-blah-blah, ha ha, ah-ha -UGHHHHHHHH!”
[To hear Shakespeare’s lament sung in its entirety, click here: It’s Hard to Be the Bard. And if you get a chance to see this show, don’t miss it.]
Happy Writing, my friends!
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