The paper provided for our learning of the alphabet at that tender age, the beginnings of the craft of Wordsmithing, is of the cheapest available, and has blue lines spaced approximately six inches apart, allowing for great latitude of error. But to those of us too small to reach the desk from the seat without squatting on our knees, those broad lines appeared far to small to keep our scribbled attempts within.
After many failed attempts, and a ream of paper, we are finally able to make an "A" that looks enough like an "A" that our teacher knows that it isn't an inverted and customized attempt at drawing an Indian teepee.
With much justifiable pride we (hopefully after school is dismissed) run home to show our accomplishments to our appreciative mother, who, magnet in hand, displays our masterpiece on the refrigerator door.
This is how our passage to the craft of Wordsmithing begins.
And when we've reached the top of our game, but the bottom of our communicative skills, we read something we enjoy and say "Gee, I wish I could write like that."
Writing can be compared to a body builder and a sculptor, which in essence is the same thing. First, looking at the body builder, whether man or woman, what we see and appreciate is the finished product. We see their moment of glory as they parade on stage before the camera and the eyes of the judges. They appear to be so confident, so poised, so natural. It appears as if God had, in His misapplied efforts, given them a gift of beauty and perfection that He somehow missed giving to us. What we do not see is the intense dedication and sacrifice those on the stage have given to their quest for the perfect body. They are willing to do without all those things the which we indulge ourselves in order to attain what we so nonchalantly wish we possessed.
Writing can be compared to the gymnast who gracefully dances across the mat or leaps like a gazelle across the beam as if born for that very purpose. How effortless she rises in the air and with a flip backwards, lands on the four inch beam as if it were a mile wide pad of silk. We see her as she performs a back-bend that would cause us great pain just to imagine ourselves contorting to such a position. But what we don't see is the many times that girl has fallen from the beam, the many bruises and possibly even broken bones she encountered, the missed opportunities to enjoy her youth. And until the camera moves in for a close view of this lovely girl so gracefully bending her back for our amusement, we don't see the great strain and agony she is experiencing just to entertain us, and perhaps to win a little recognition.
Wishing does little but feed our own frustration for having done little to achieve that which we wish for. All wishing is, is a reminder that we are not willing to sacrifice for what we desire. And sacrifice, in any endeavor, is the key word. Without sacrifice nothing worthwhile is accomplished.
The body builder is a sculpture, or at least this is the case in days long past. We see the bulging muscles, the taught skin, the flawless contours that connect one portion of the body to another. What we do not recognize is the effort taken to insure that one portion of the body does not overpower or diminish another part of the body. The neck, the calves and the upper arm are to be the same in size. Bulging muscles are not the goal of the true body builder, it's symmetry and visual appeal that is desired. Steve Reeves, perhaps the best known and the greatest of body builders was careful not to develop his obliques, the muscles on the side, because they robbed from the effect of the Latisimus that gave him the tapered upper body he sought for.
Body builders are sculptures, not merely hunks of beef to be rejected as misguided souls with nothing better to do with their lives.
When the piece is near its finish, the artist takes care to see that every aspect, from every direction, fits perfectly with every other part of the piece. One small crevice or nodule can destroy the effect of the entire piece. Nothing is left to chance. Every aspect of the sculpture is taken into careful consideration.
Then the piece is carefully placed into the kiln, and the fires of the kiln hardens the piece into what it will forever remain.
We, as a viewer of the finished piece, only see the finished result. We do not see the tedious hours, weeks, or even years that have gone into the making of this thing of beauty.
Words are like magic tricks. In order for the trick to be successful the intentional distractions and slight of hand must be completely out of the viewer's sight. A stage show is successful according to how well the choreographer, the stage hands, the lighting crew, the sound crew, and all the others a viewer never sees handles their job. The best of actors will fall flat on their face if even one of those unseen and unappreciated crew members does not do their job as planned.
In like manner every member of a well written story must do their job flawlessly and unseen. If a single member of the story's cast of characters tries to take center stage the entire effort is lost. In the case of the written word, members of the crew, those unappreciated participants, are commas, colons, semicolons and many other grammatical marks that must be left in the background, unseen, and unnoticed.
Words are the actors on the stage of the written word. Words are what we see. But the words we see are not to be noticed, any more than a single member of a crowd scene is to be noticed. They are there to fill out the story, to add life and color to the plot. But the star is the story. When one lays down the book after reading the last page, all that should remain with the reader is the story, and the intended moral or objective of the story. Participants who stand out as more predominant than the story have robbed the reader of the true purpose of reading.
As the sculptor must take meticulous effort to insure that every particle of his creation is precisely where it is to go, one part not robbing from the whole, so must a writer examine his creation in minute detail to insure all parts are in their proper location. Segments of the story must be read for clarity. The story in it's entirety must be read over and over for coherency and flow. If one word or comma stands out in the reading, it must be removed, replaced or refined. Some actors do not work well with one another. As great as they may be alone, they clash if together. This is true of words as well. Often some of the finest series of words, that might go down in history and stand amongst the greatest of quotes must be removed because they do not work well with the other words they must share the page with. Often the construction of a single sentence or paragraph can take a Wordsmith hours to sculpt into an appropriate form, and then on occasion have to be removed because it refuses to conform to the purpose of the whole. Many hours of research are spent pouring over a dictionary and a thesaurus, and the web searching for just the right word or phrase to convey a thought or feeling. Questions are asked: Should the sentence be short, be long, how to break it down in a grammatically correct form. Should the statement be vivid, pallid, subdued or forceful. Does it add or subtract from the intent of the subject at hand. Can it be better expressed. Then the printing of the story, and the rereading, and the proof reading of the story as an entity. These are the agony, the sacrifices the Wordsmith submits to in order to produce for you, the reader, but a moment of pleasure or benefit.
Writing is an endeavor. Writing is work. What is read word-for-word in minutes may have taken the writer days or weeks to lay on paper.
Then comes the kiln. When all the words, the actors, are in place: When stage crew knows their place and stand therein, then comes the fire that melds them into one permanent entity. Fire to the writer, the written word, is the critics, the readers. Once the story is in print, then comes the heat of criticism. Will the story convey the meaning it was intended to convey? Will the story evoke the emotion hoped for? Will the humor be recognized for what it is? Will the moral or the objective of the story be recognized and appreciated? Will the story sit on a shelf unread? Will it have been an effort of wasted time? What comments will be forthcoming? And will there be any comments made at all? These are the questions that haunt the writer's thoughts, just as it does the artist, the body builder, and the gymnast as she awaits her score. These are the rewards for a labor of love. And, just as it is with the many on stage who do not make it to the final spotlight, this is often the disappointment of the writer that must be accepted and overcome.
The world is in a hurry. We watch movies in fast-forward and think we know what the movie is all about. We live life in fast-forward. In life as in movies, there will be a glimmer of what flashed before the viewer that remains, and maybe even accepted and appreciated. But in writing nothing is retained when experienced on the run. We read a newspaper article by skimming over the columns, grabbing a word here and a word there, hoping to have learned a tidbit or two from what we've read. But in reading a story that possesses feeling and motives and delicate twists of plot, this can not be done. A story read in this manner robs the writer of what he or she is desiring to tell you. Skimming the pages of a story written from the heart is no different than listening to a friend tell you of her heartache while you have your attention tuned to the TV.
Consider yourself. Did you begin this story as something to attack, to have over and done with in order to say "I've read it"? Did you skim it for just enough information that would allow you to write a book report and give the highlights? Or did you maybe jump from place to place, a word here and a word there, seeing only that which might grab your attention and cause you to read that portion a bit closer?
Or, contrary to the above, did you settle yourself in a chair with the intention of giving this story your full attention? Perhaps you said to yourself "I wonder what I can learn from this person?" Or maybe you ran across a sentence, phrase, or paragraph that you found especially smooth to the ear or well written and you want to examine for yourself what the writer did to create this effect. Or maybe you saw a place where the writer stumbled and lost the meaning or in some other way did not convey his or her thoughts as well as they could have been expressed. If this is the case, perhaps you considered in your mind how it might have been rephrased to work more effectively. Maybe you even went so far as to really listen to the heart of the writer, gleaning from the story what the writer is trying to convey to you. Perhaps you have placed yourself in to the story as one of the characters, or you recognized something referred to that reminds you of yourself and causes you to either appreciate that quality in yourself, or to correct it in yourself.
Are you one who takes the time to listen to others with a compassionate heart, helping where you are able? Do you read into others what you believe them to be rather than see them for what they present themselves to be? Do you try to "read between the lines" the things they say? Or do you listen to the lines themselves and take them at face value?
Do you look for the best in others and in situations you find yourself in, whether good or bad? Do you look for what you can get out of a relationship rather what you can put into the relationship and how you can improve it? Are you a nitpicker, looking for flaws and judging according to what you seem to have found? Or do you look for the good in others and try to bring the best out of them?
Is it possible that how you see others is how you actually perceive yourself and are unwilling to deal with that issue?
Is it possible that how you read this story is how you read the Word of God as well? Do you go to church to be with your Lord and with His people? Or do you attend merely because it's expected of you, and that is where your friends and your family will be on Sunday? Do you listen to the sermon in order to discover what the pastor might be telling you, or even what God might be saying to you? Or do you criticize the pastor's tie, or the music, or try to find a flaw in his manner of speech? Or perhaps your mind is not on the sermon at all but rather you're contemplating your fingernails, or wondering what to fix for dinner, or the beautiful day you're wasting sitting in a pew?
How you read this story is of little consequence. But what you read of yourself through the reading of this story could make all the difference in the world, and of the next.
For those of you who are interested, this piece is taking about ten hours to write, not including the printing of it, nor the preparing for the web. This is four pages, and one of the easier of the stories I've written.
"The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say." ~Anaïs Nin
"Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia." ~E.L. Doctorow
"A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket." ~Charles Peguy
"And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." ~Sylvia Plath
"The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium." ~Norbet Platt
"Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say." ~Sharon O'Brien
"The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say." ~Mark Twain
"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." ~William Wordsworth
"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible." ~Vladimir Nabakov
"Easy reading is damn hard writing." ~Nathaniel Hawthorne
"Ink and paper are sometimes passionate lovers, oftentimes brother and sister, and occasionally mortal enemies." ~Terri Guillemets
"The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air. All I must do is find it, and copy it." ~Jules Renard
"I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions." ~James Michener
"I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork." ~Peter De Vries
"Writing, I think, is not apart from living. Writing is a kind of double living. The writer experiences everything twice. Once in reality and once in that mirror which waits always before or behind." ~Catherine Drinker Bowen
"To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the inner music the words make." ~Truman Capote
"I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top." ~English Professor
"Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it." ~Hannah Arendt
"No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous." ~Henry Brooks Adams
"Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." ~Gene Fowler
"Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable." ~Francis Bacon
From the Bible
2Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart. (Psalm 26:)
8The LORD shall judge the people: judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me. (Psalm 7:)
28But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. (1Cor 11:)
11If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (2Peter 4:)
8Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. (Rom 13:)
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