By: Marilyn L. Davis
“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” ― Stephen King, On Writing
For more than twenty years, I have written about the terrors, horrors, mistakes and redemption of addiction and recovery. That writing came easily.
I wrote of my fears, longings, and harm to others, as well as the joys and blessings in recovery without a thought as to whether it was correctly written or not.
It was not that I was dismissive of correct writing. However, I knew my subject first-hand and as such, words for the experiences, methods, and outcomes effortlessly flowed.
My clients and readers were appreciative and credited me with knowing what it was really like, or “I can see you walked in my shoes.”
I often wrote about changing aspects of personality or self-defeating behaviors. I then gave concrete examples and how-to’s to demonstrate those changes.
Because that writing was solution focused, people sometimes assume then that I am this fearless, courageous person without struggles or uncertainty.
The reality is that I have many fears; I have simply made a choice not to let my fears overcome my desire to expand, get better at and to share my opinions about writing.
I think that each of us takes a slightly different approach to writing and as such, this article is about overcoming my fear of writing perfectly and my new-found joy in writing about writing.
Just the Absolutely, Perfect, Spot-On, Right Word
There are moments when my fingers move effortlessly from one letter to the next, as I find the right words that make the page seem less barren and bleak. Alternatively, as Mark Twain said, “The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
When I have those lightning moments, it makes the days of struggling to capture a thought, a feeling, or a moment in time worth it.
There Is a Word, a Perfectly Good Word, and I Cannot Remember It
Some days it does not flow; or the words spread on the page and all the computer review notices like ‘long sentence’, ‘grammar’, ‘sentence fragment’, ‘split infinities’, ‘verb-noun agreement’, or spelling mistakes take the place of actually writing.
Or as Jarod Kintz so succinctly puts it, “Writers fish for the right words like fishermen fish for, um, whatever those aquatic creatures with fins and gills are called. ”
I Had to Stop Fishing and Write
However, I have a hard time picturing any of the great authors and writers sitting under the spreading chestnut tree with a dictionary, Thesaurus, or a rhyming dictionary, not to mention the extra quills and ink pots.
I think that great writing is more than using a Thesaurus to make the point with the exact word.
It is using words in a way that move our readers to realize “so-that-is-how-it-works”, or exclaim, “Wow”, or that best of all experiences, the “aha moment”.
Simplicity in my choice of words does not mean I disrespect my readers and dumb it down. The goal is to work with readers, giving them straightforward words that let the reader hear me speaking in their heads.
I Had to Stop Trying to Impress and Write
I still do not think that most great literature or writing uses obscure language, other than Thomas Pynchon and Ezra Pound. You know you are obscurely writing when it is necessary to have a dictionary to facilitate your work. The Ezra Pound Encyclopedia is the ultimate example.
I have yet, after forty-five years, to make it through Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. Moreover, should any Pynchon readers care to comment, I have read the first 150 pages multiple times.
I have also driven through fog many times. While I know that there is an end to the density of that, I do not have faith or interest in seeing if I can come out of the Rainbow’s fog.
From a review: “Gravity’s Rainbow is bone crushingly dense, compulsively elaborate, silly, obscene, funny, tragic, pastoral, historical, philosophical, poetic, grindingly dull, inspired, horrific, cold, bloated, beached and blasted.” There, I rest my case.
I have the responsibility to present material in a way that makes reading easy, even for complex ideas.
I Had to Collaborate and Connect with Readers
Writing and reading are a collaborative effort. One way to see if I have accomplished this symbiotic or mutually beneficial relationship with readers is to read my work aloud before I publish it.
If I am stumbling over words, my readers will have the same problems.
Readers want a connection to the writer. But do they want to delve into my head?
I am not sure; however, they do want something original from the mind of the writer that either resonates with them, prompts them to think or gives them a focal point of disagreement.
Tomorrow Is A Working Day – I Will Spend It Writing
I am enjoying the discipline and structure that writing about writing is giving me. It makes me think about all of the writers who have sat for endless hours stringing words together to entertain, educate or enlighten readers.
One thing that all have stressed is that we do not get good at this without a lot of writing. Also stressed is that we get better by reading, so for now, I will read.
I will analyze, scrutinize, and visualize what another wordsmith has written about, absorbing his or her words and learning.