Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Knowing Your Song and Singing It

Anne LaMotte has suggested that a writer should force himself/herself to write three hundred words per day, even if they are not very good words. Most days it isn’t hard to produce three hundred mediocre words, but the goal, I think, is that most days he or she will produce useful words, well crafted and meaningful, perhaps even of interest to others, at least editable words that, with some effort, are capable of becoming useful words.

The first thing a writer must ask is, why write? And then, why me? And finally, why this?

None of those are easy questions to answer. There is a sort of arrogance in the assumption that one should write, as though they have anything to say that requires the permanence of a written record. To speak is often more than the world requires of one, but to ask the world to remember what was spoken, or in the case of a writer, written, must be the height of vanity.

And, even if that which is written has merit, surely there are others who can express it more powerfully, convincingly, artfully, worthily. With the advent of the computer and the Internet, everyone who desires to do so can become an author. So why should I, or anyone else presume to speak to, or for, the masses?

The same can be said for that which is written. Solomon is reputed to have said that there is nothing new under the sun. I suppose, in the 3,000 years that have transpired since he made that observation, some new thing may have occurred and, if so, it deserves to be recorded for the benefit of future generations. However, for any particular writer to assume that he or she has discovered that new thing is, again, an arrogant stretch.

So, Anne LaMotte, why should I be writing three hundred words per day? Why me? And, why the things I write? (By the way, I hit 300 words after writing, “So, Anne.” By rights, I should have quit there.)

I write because I love to do so. The old Puritans used to talk of “calling,” and as late as the mid-1940s my sixth grade teacher used the same language. The idea is that we are made for a purpose, undoubtedly for many purposes. I believe I was made to, among other things, write. That doesn’t mean that I think my words are better than those others write, probably they are not. A bird doesn’t ask if its song is better than that of other song birds. The trees may be full of twittering birds but each sings what it was made to sing and the world gets to judge the value and beauty of its song.

It isn’t always easy to decide what to write about. Sometimes it is – an idea is burning in one’s mind and seems to need expression – but often there is no urgency to “speak.” Some would advise writing nothing on those occasions. At times, I wish I had written nothing. But just as often, I return to a piece that I labored over the day before and find that it has more worth more than I had credited it with.

So, bloggers of the world, blog on. Farmers, farm on. Fry cooks, turn those steaks. If we all do what we are called to do, and love to do, the world will be a better place, filled with the music of our various birdsongs.

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