By: Marilyn L. Davis
“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard.”
Seemingly Effortless Writing
I have written about the terrors, horrors, mistakes, and redemption of addiction and recovery for more than thirty years. That writing was stumble-free and straightforward; the words flowed, whether I was writing about fears, harm to others, or the joys and blessings of recovery.
Rarely did I wonder if the writing was correct or not. It was not that I was dismissive of grammar; I could deal with that in an edit. The writing flowed because I knew my subject first-hand, and as such, the words for the experiences, methods, and outcomes were not a struggle.
My clients and readers were appreciative and credited me with knowing what it was 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.
Writing Forces Us to Face our Fears
The reality is that I have many fears, both in my recovery and writing; I have merely 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 correctly and my newfound joy in writing about writing.
What’s 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.
Some days it does not flow; 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. “
There Is a Word, a Perfectly Good Word, and I Cannot Remember It
“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”―
I have difficulty 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. Excellent writing is more than using a Thesaurus to make the point with the exact word.
A great post is written in a way that moves our readers to realize “so-that-is-how-it-works,” or exclaim, “Wow,” or that best of all, the “aha moment” that readers reference in a comment.
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 exact words that let them 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 that density, 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.
We Have to Collaborate and Connect with Readers
Writers have the responsibility to present material to make reading easy, even for complex ideas. 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 want something original from the writer’s mind that either resonates with them, prompts them to think, or gives them a focal point of disagreement. We’ll know when these connections occur as readers will like, dislike, or leave a comment that encourages us or helps us see where we weren’t connecting with the readers.
Today Is A Working Day – I Will Write and Then…
I enjoy the discipline and structure that writing about writing gives 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.
Great writers stress that we do not get good at this without a lot of writing, so I got this post done – also emphasized is that we get better by reading, so for now, I will read. “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”―
Now, who am I to argue with Stephen King? So for now, I will analyze, scrutinize, and visualize what another wordsmith has written about, absorbing their words and learning.
Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing
Consider a guest post: we accept poetry, prose, and problem-solving for the writer and blogger.
Marilyn L. Davis is the Editor-in-Chief at Two Drops of Ink and From Addict 2 Advocate. She is also the author of Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate and Memories into Memoir: The Mindsets and Mechanics Workbook, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Indie Books, and Books A Million.