On taking writing seriously

First of all, I’m so sorry about neglected comments, updates, and other neglected things. Something apparently went wrong with the email I was using before, and I wasn’t getting any updates at all, so I assumed this place was seeing its usual zero traffic (not exactly the case; I have no idea why, given my lack of updates). Anyway, a comment with foul language was purged, another is a thoughtful one that I have yet to respond to, and there are no doubt several updates that I completely missed on the assumption that every other person I followed was slacking off as much as I on the blogging front. I’ve changed emails while trying to sort out what’s going on with the other one, and I actually do have something written. I’ve also finally updated my About page.

Now to what I initially logged in to write…

One of my favorite quotes on writing comes from Stephen King’s memoir on the subject. It’s a line that has stuck with me in the three or so years since I first read it, though I wasn’t sure exactly why.

The line is simple. A command, really.

“You must not come lightly to the blank page.”

This plea to take writing seriously is a catchy quote, but it’s one of many good one-off lines on writing that I’ve stumbled across over the years. It’s been a mystery to me why this one has remained with me for so long. As I’ve gotten more comfortable with my writing over the past couple of months, that quote keeps returning to mind whenever I’ve about to embark on a writing venture of any sort. It shows up when I’m about to start a short poem, a story, a journal entry, or a word-doodle that might take a life of its own later.

And oddly enough, it took a priest’s homily to help me understand why.

The topic of the sermon was on the physical and spiritual nature of human beings, and while the priest was leading up to the main substance of his talk, he noted that our thoughts take physical shape in our words. We speak them. We write them.

When you start putting words to paper or digital surface, you’re converting something with existence only in the mind to a life outside it, to a shape where it can affect others and be used by them. You’re taking thought and putting it into a form where others can see it, and where they can have their own reactions to it, a form where they can do what they like with it.

When looked at in that light, the warning against coming lightly to the blank page makes sense. Because capturing something as nebulous and tangled as thought in a form that’s coherent and defining is hard enough- and that’s not even considering what that finished form has the power to do. We warn against playing with matches, after all. And thoughts have their own kind of fire, and it’s easy for fire to get out of hand.

What I’ve been doing: Training for another half-marathon, finishing a short story, trying to revise said short story and cursing my hideous handwriting throughout, attempting to catch up on letters and emails.

What I’m reading: “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand” by Helen Simonson and “The Lays of Beleriand by J.R.R. Tolkien.



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