“You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair – the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.”
~ Stephen King, On Writing
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about words. How words affect our daily lives. That probably isn’t too surprising for a writer -and an avid reader-who emmerses herself in writing and books as many hours of the day as she can squeeze in. I’m currently reading Stephen King’s book On Writing. His point-quoted above – about coming to the blank page seriously resonates within me. Once written, words live on forever, especially now in the world of computers. We have a responsibility to be careful with what we send out into the world. Words affect people. They can hurt, help, entertain, inform, encourage, transport love or carry hate to the corners of the earth.
Sometimes we fire off our words like a weapon carelessly loaded, not very well aimed. We regret it when they splatter the target but it’s hard to take them back. Hard to erase what’s already been written. Hopefully we learn to be more careful with what we put out with our weapons the mighty pen and keyboard.
Sometimes we won’t put pen to paper out of fear of not having the exact right words. We have a respect for the written word alright. So much so that the page stays blank and no words ever get written at all. Our opinion is silent. Our words go unheard. Our thoughts lost among the chatter of others braver than ourselves. The fear is palatable. The pain of being invisible time and time again is worse.
Sometimes we DO get the words down that we wanted to say. Then we wait for the approval. The acceptance that we so desperately seek but are afraid to admit to. That we don’t want to have to ask for. The torture of knocking on doors, selling our writing. The fear of rejection and public disgrace is part of the job of writing…no one said it was going to be easy.
Is it any wonder that Hallmark has already written cards that all you have to do is sign your name to without having to take a chance at having to write even a single sentence? Is it any wonder that sock drawers and underwear drawers all across the world are filled with half completed novels and stories going nowhere?
The written word is powerful and can be frightening. Announcing the intent to call yourself a writer or to say you are writing a book or that you plan to earn your living writing ( especially on-line) will get you a good number of sideways glances and condescending looks. Even from people who mean well. It takes a great deal of resolve to get up every day and face the pen and keyboard in the face of adversarial stress from the words themselves and their human counterparts.
How then do writers face the morning ready to take on the challenge of the written word?
For me, love conquers all. Sounds silly but it’s the closest I can come to an honest answer. I write because I have a passion to write and I have been writing since I was a small child. Writing is how I express myself and let my true emotions come forth. Sometimes I find that words get stuck in my throat and won’t make it out of my mouth, but they will find their way out of my pen or keyboard. Once I’ve seen what I have written, then I can get a true handle on what I really feel.
When writing fiction, I realized a long time ago that I have no idea what my characters are going to do until they tell me on the page. It’s as much of a surprise for me as it is to my readers. I think if I didn’t write I would fill up with steam until I burst. I have no choice in the matter at all. So, the obstacles are something I have to overcome. I try to be very careful to be honest in my writing, to protect the privacy of others and never try to offend anyone. As far as the fear, the rejection and the looks, I am doing my best to ignore it. I have to write. It isn’t an option to me.
How about you? How do you handle the written word? The need to be careful with what you have written so as not to offend anyone, the writer’s block, the fear of rejection, the sideways glances, the ones who think you should keep (or get) your day job?
How do you deal with your love affair with words?
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