Sometimes writing is
solitude at its best.
The photo above is of a boy in a school in the city of Gonaives, in northern Haiti. The school’s name is La Redemption. That name offers promise.
In the beginning was the Word….
Strictly speaking, that clause — it’s the first line of the gospel of St. John in the New Testament — is a misstatement. If the Word was the First Thing, wasn’t it a word about Something? But if it was about something, then didn’t that thing exist before the word did? Some people have fun chasing around questions like this one, some probably think doing so is a waste of time or misses the point, but in any case experience and words for that experience are not quite the same thing. So? So language is a way of observing our own experience, of making sense of our lives, of telling stories in order to explain things.
Asked when he took vacations from his work, the playwright Noel Coward reportedly said, “I am never not working.” If you look at writing as a way to explain anything — what you want for lunch, how to operate a fork lift, whether or not time moves in a spiral instead of a straight line — or to register a feeling, or to amuse your friends, or to make money, Coward’s comment is easy to understand. You are working when you are writing; you have something to write because you have been gathering experience; both those things are work. Ideally, they’re also fun, even if we’re not Noel Coward.
So if you want to write, or if you have to write, your task is to convey some kind of thought. As a friend of mine once said, “We don’t think in words. We just think we think in words.” Okay, so if that’s true, then writing is giving thought some kind of shape.
Very quickly, however, this discussion can seem entirely too theoretical. If you want to write, or if someone is holding a gun to your head to make you write, then you’re turning experience into language, and if you recognize that experience is something you actually do have, after all, then you’re on your way. Write, keep writing, at some point get someone to read it, see what happens, write some more.
I’ve spent a bunch of years helping people figure out how to put into words what they need other people to read or hear. This site offers that kind of help: for eager writers, for reluctant writers, for professional writers who’d like a fresh pair of eyes on what they’re writing … and for people who don’t want to write at all and want to find someone else who’ll write something for them.