Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Writing IS Work

By Jason Meadors 

Work involves tools. Carpenters have hammers, truck drivers have big Macks. Field athletes have balls. Writers? Our tools are words.

Tools aren’t used most effectively the first time up. A master carpenter swinging that hammer so effortlessly and effectively wasn’t like that on the first day. Mastery of the craft came about through constant repetition, by building muscle memory, until driving nails became as natural as breathing or eating or – well, let’s leave it there.

Mastery of our own tools is not exclusive to the mere work of writing, because words are ingrained in daily life. Warning: Shameless culture reference follows. They surround us. They penetrate us. They bind our humanity together. To achieve mastery, we bring our observation and use of those tools to every facet of our day. 

Use it. Don't Lose It.

Once immersed in this writing lifestyle, mindfulness of language is never-ending. It’s hard work, albeit without the discomfort of actual physical labor. But still, hard work that becomes a part of life. Our attention to language is constant.

It Would Be Arguably Funnier If It Read You're  Your.
The strengths of our writing mind build through listening to speech with all its loveliness and deformities, absorbing the works of others, and turning a ubiquitous and self-critical eye to our own expressions. 

In that process over the course of days, months, years, the mental muscle memory builds, the mechanics of the process become more second-nature. The work flows. Our first drafts smooth out, and the product we submit shows more polish.  

Not to say that writing should become rote or routine. A formulaic product is anathema to art. And work at it all we want, natural ability plays its part. Some are more naturally adept at it like some people run faster, some take easily to math, some are mechanically skilled. Life is not a level playing field, sorry.

Some people have incredible imaginations for story ideas, scene descriptions, inserting pithy aphorisms. Others like me are more Blue-Collar Minions of the Quill, looking at those gifted people with a mixture of awe and resentment before straining to wring out our own meandering prose.

The oft-quoted but always-poignant statement by Gene Fowler comes to mind: “Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”

Or in our case now, a blank computer screen.

But it’s worth it, if only for our own quality of life. For example, I’ve done photography. In trying to describe the fulfillment photography gave me, I would say in the daily routine of life, even with no camera in hand, I would always be looking for The Shot.

In constant observation and analysis of the world, I would see more of it. I became more observant, more appreciative of the views around me. And with that, I was experiencing a fuller life.

In the same fashion, we are always looking for The Sentence. Or even just The Phrase. We observe. We perceive. We imagine. In doing so, our life experience, filtered through creativity, is improved. We are enriched.

But to communicate the experience to others effectively, we must use language in ways that are not only correct but evocative to our readers. That doesn’t happen on its own. It happens because we work at it in every facet of life, except possibly sleep. 

As the kids say these days, “The struggle is real.” And in writing, it is.

So with that ringing in our heads, that our agonizing efforts never cease:  Happy writing!

Now I have to go clean blood off my forehead.

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