I’ve learned a great deal about writing from reading. You are what you read. Everyone says it. Stephen King in his On Writing, for one. John Lennon became the songwriter he was by listening to stacks and stacks of pop 45’s.
And yet, good writing doesn’t just come from reading, nor education by itself. Satisfactory writing, for me at least, comes through quite a lot of unsatisfactory writing. It’s easy to beat yourself up about it. Indeed, I’ve gone to the school of self-flagellation wearing my sack cloth and ashes. By in large, that time was wasted. Vanity and modesty are both illusory.
Good writing comes in the effort of making your imagination clear. Clarity informs everything. It tells you what is overstated, ommited and overdramatized. To be clear is to tell a tale or sing a song without deviation, and isn’t that what we all look for in art?
And patience can’t be underestimated, for it implies two qualities one brings to a piece: First, the dignity of labor. To be patient means you will show up on time with a willingness to work for as long as it takes. Patience further suggests that you will leave your negative nature behind and not infect the words with it.
The photograph, by the way, is of my granddaughter Erin who at three-years-old exhibits a remarkable degree of clarity and patience in so much that she does – especially her storytelling. As an example when she was barely two, she created an imaginary sister named Wall. Her hands and feet are mermaids and such. Each has a name and a set of traits. She has stories about them all, and talks to them regularly. The remarkable thing is how clearly she remembers each vignette and how consistent are the properties of each character. I know this because when I confuse them, she corrects me with an all but imperciptible show of exasperation. She is my inspiration.