Bother to Write
I spoke to a university journalism class in the States today. It was a Skype call; a presentation I’d prepared about the importance of good writing skills for a journalism career. For any career. I went through the standard spiel about using active voice, metaphor, being correct, complete, careful and clever. I threw in quotes from some of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott and Bob Dotson (who says success [in the news business] “does not depend on being dealt a good hand. It’s playing a bad hand well, over and over again”).
But only towards the end of the talk did I touch on what for me, is the heart of the matter. Good journalistic writing is about more than not pissing off or confusing your audience; It’s about connecting people to their neighbors and helping them feel more informed.
Personal essay (for me, in the guise of this blog) connects me with other fractured humans; friends and strangers willing to share joy and empathize with heartache while they sit at their kitchen counter, fingers curled around a mug of coffee or cup of tea.
Words are the legacy we leave for our children and for generations beyond. You don’t have to pretend to be a great writer (I don’t). You do have to practice the craft. Dare to plant your butt on a seat and write, ignoring the inner critic that says your words aren’t good enough, glib enough, graphic enough. You are enough. You are enough for your own page. You are enough for your family and friends. Keep practicing, and your words may also be enough to satisfy a broader audience.
Bother because someone else needs to hear your story, even if (especially if) that person is your future self – one year or five years or twenty years from now. None of us (as the saying goes) is the same person we were five minutes ago. We’re like granite in a river, getting bashed and battered, washed and worn by an ever-changing current. The water rushes so quickly, tomorrow we’ll scarcely remember its color, temperature, scent, sediment or pieces of jetsam we saw: “Was it warm in May?”; “Did the water smell of pine, or fish, or wet dog?” “Did I spot one tire, or seven? Or twenty?” Maybe I’ll remember. Likely I won’t. Memory, like the river, is fluid.
Bother to write because someone else needs to hear your story, even if (especially if) those people are your children, nephews and nieces, and godchildren. They need to hear how you met your love; how you stayed together or grew apart; how you lost and found a home, a job, your health, your money… how the only thing that lasts is love.
And words. But only if you bother to write.