I have accumulated many trade skills during my lifetime. Writing is one of them. But it is not so different from the others. It is made up of essentials. Words are tools. Grammar is the method of construction. Different words, like fasteners, hold the material of thought in different shapes. The glue is determination and the finish on the product relates directly to its destination, some things you paint, others you leave natural.
Once you know how to use the tools you can build whatever you like, whatever you have the materials for. The writer’s materials are life’s experiences and observations. Theories make for flimsy construction, stuff that won’t last. Real life experiences produce more solid wares. You can quickly build a rustic item, sufficient in its practicality but nothing special to look at, and it will serve you. Or you can hone your tools and carve exquisite detail into the sides of your project, creating something more visually pleasing. Your rustic piece set in nature will satisfy others, give ambiance and enhance its surroundings, but the labors of your detailed efforts will stop them and draw out their appreciation.
The most difficult factor in the process is time. The demands of life will not allow you to build for long without recompense. As a tradesman, you must negotiate with others and build products of their choosing, groupings of words that have specific value. There is a market price on thought.
The artist, the creative wordsmith, is in a constant dilemma. He wants to form objects that exist for greater, transcendental reasons. He wants to skillfully and painstakingly create pictures from words that will move bodies and change minds. But he may be constrained to use his craft for more mundane purposes. And often, as in other aspects of life and vocation, the ideal slips neatly away into the file cabinet of the past; and the humdrum, compromising reality of the present turns into the future’s discouragement. Time runs out. Not enough is not enough.
To choose writing as a career can be a disheartening act. In the long run, idealism and creativity may be preserved when writing is maintained as an avocation. But the diminished scope of accomplishment embodied in this plan may be even more disheartening to the challenged writer.
Some writers have no choice. They are compelled by larger forces. The power of their thought channels their work. The sheer force of their creativity causes them to forget life’s essentials and demands they write without consideration of personal cost. Their social neglect sometimes foments battles. Things fall apart. There is anger and repercussion. But they go on, heedlessly, even to confinement. Many great works have been produced from a cell.
I like to write on legal pads, in the car, when I wake up, and before I go to bed. The notes accumulate and demand my attention. Other important things fall to the side. The carnivorous clock gobbles up all the time and I find myself alone, disoriented and wishing there was someone who understood.
– Larry Berger, HashtagWV #105. September 2018.