Writers Journey: Writing is Ancient...

Writing is an ancient pursuit; in fact ‘writing’ existed before we wrote at all.  Stories have been a constant companion to human beings since before recorded history.  Before we had reason and science we had stories and when there was something we didn’t understand we strove to acknowledge it somehow through telling a story about it.  Stories are also a way to remember what is important.  It’s important as a writer to set aside all personal ambition for a moment and really stop and consider the history of the art of words.  We take words for granted so much today.  Nearly everyone can speak, and a lot of people can write.  Today it’s easy to push aside the veneration that writing, that story-telling in particular, deserves. Even an examination of language will confirm that language itself is special, even sacred.  Ancient Hebrew did not contain vowels.  It was conjectured that one possible reason for this omission was to preserve the sanctity of what was being written down for those initiated into its secrets.  If vowels are the ‘breath’ of words, then omitting them stole breath from those trying to read without understanding.  And when we look into the history of language itself, we begin to see in these examples just how important language was and still is today.  Consequently, if this fascinated you then I recommend reading David Abram’s book The Spell of the Sensuous: perception and language in a more-than-human world.  It’s an exploration of language throughout history and reveals more fascinating insights into language itself. When I talk with most aspiring young writers today, their main ambition in writing is to become famous first, and published as a byproduct of that fame.  Never mind the fact that fame itself is such a...

Writers Journey: Poetry and Prose...

I touched on prose and poetry earlier and would do so again now.  The difference is important to determine if only superficially for now. Poetry is a heart-felt expression of a vision that unites people by its utterance.  Poetry speaks to the spirit like a photograph capturing an intangible moment with words that are not often sensible and yet dive down beneath rationality into something within everyone that beats a little deeper.  It is not that prose cannot do this within its structure as well, and I would argue that prose itself may contain moments of poetry within it, as so well-shown by J.R.R. Tolkien’s the Lord of the Rings or lines by James Joyce, such as “Soft morn, City.”  It is more that the vehicle of prose is a different animal, looking to share an experience which is longer than a vision and therefore cannot be a photograph of the ineffable when it must be a long chain unfolding into tangible experience. A good story will bring something new into the world.  So will a good poem.  Both are capable of bringing the reader a new awareness.  At its best, prose pushes past materiality and consumerism into a realm that pulls the reader up out of a sea of merely surviving and into possibilities.  Sometimes witnessing these truths, these possibilities, hurts as a reader, particularly when times are very tough.  It is a good storyteller that will mediate the message to the reader in a way that wakes us up like a man in a Russian classic, so that we exclaim, “Gentleman, I’ve had a good dream.”  We keep that dream, rather than refuse it, because even if it hurt a little, it empowered us. A well-written story seems to slide deeper into...