Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday the 13th: Hooray!

It’s Friday, the 13th of January, 2012, the 104th post, an anniversary for this blog, begun two years ago because I simply wasn’t done teaching and coaching writers, because I wished to extend my love of words beyond the classroom. So in honor of this milestone, I wish to return to the beginning: why you should write and more to the point, why I write.

First and most significant, write to know. I never really know what I think until I try to express it, and writing is the best way to do so.

After every kind of performance--blues, Broadway and far-off Broadway shows, movies, art exhibits, TV programs, and lectures--my husband asks, “Well, what did you think?” And I begin to try to sum up all that I thought and experienced. He, of course, responds with his point of view, and together we chat, sometimes on and off for days. I love these discussions, especially the ones that range from topic to topic as we drive hours from place to place until we seem to talk ourselves out and turn on NPR or an audiobook. He’s a thoughtful man, one who continues to surprise and teach me. I think that’s one reason we’ve endured for 30 years.

Still, in all those words, I have not given shape to and defined a formal, summary opinion because that is the nature of conversation: it is fluid. Like a stream, it runs onward, bumping against obstacles in understanding, sliding over hindrances and differences, changing directions with the terrain. Sometimes circumstances dam the flow altogether.

Writing, however, forces the writer to account for all obstacles, hindrances, and differences. In writing, we strive for verisimilitude (having the quality of realism, truth). We labor to be reasonable, persuasive, and logical. We search for apt evidence that will illustrate and enhance our position, and although we lack the immediate audience that conversation provides, we must think as our audience will in order to be exact and clear. In other words, writing demands that we know precisely what it is we think and believe in order to commuicate our thoughts and beliefs effectively.

Thus, writing requires that the writer pin himself to the truth. He must know, and writing helps him accomplish the telling of his truth economically and efficiently.

Second, writing helps me and countless others discover and uncover.

As I write about anything and everything, I make connections to my own experiences, to insights I’ve read, and to information I’ve gathered from others. In other words, while writing about the childhood of a character, I recognize my own verisimilitude in that character’s experience and most likely, I bring a memory to life. Now I have subjects for writing or another angle on an action I wish to describe.

Furthermore, writing shapes my attitudes. If I have made it to the end of a lousy day, one fraught with stress and unexpected nuisances, I may find my teeth clenched, my stomach juices sour. If I pause to reflect and write in my gratitude journal, I find that the day redefines itself, and I awake to a new day with hope. Similarly, I can list, in a diary entry perhaps, all the blows that flesh is heir to (Hamlet, Shakespeare), and if I do, I awake to a day full of storm and turmoil.

So writing helps me remember, and it helps me face what comes, including the fact that this posts on Friday, the 13th, a day that many dread. I choose to remember, however, that the Vikings thought the 13th man completed their efforts and brought luck to their efforts. This is what I know about this post then: only good fortune can follow.

Reading Challenge:

Read Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton wherein you will read about the 13th warrior (also the title of the film made from Crichton’s book).

Writing Challenge:

Write every day.

GUM (Grammar, Usage and Mechanics):

The number thirteen (13) written as a number in the post above should be written as a word: thirteenth. The number 104th should be written as a number, and the year, 2012, should also be written as a number. Here’s the guideline: if a number can be written in one or two words, then use words for the number, but always use numbers for the year.