Writing is nothing more than thinking another’s thoughts after them. Perhaps it's for the second time, but more often than not, it’s for the hundredth time. Writers rarely get it right the first time. They plod, meander and sometimes even stagger from time to time. It’s hard stuff. They agonize over word choices, sentence structure, and every detail of how they’re communicating. They wrestled their scattered thoughts into submission and trapped them on paper and you’re now getting to come along for the ride.
Isn’t it fun to set off without a destination in sight and nothing to guide but the moonlight above? You get to hop in the car and drive fast, for the thrill of it all. You don’t have to worry about the road, pack a lunch or pay for gas. You simply have to hang on tight as you turn page after page. One moment you’re cruising down the 101, beach on your left taking in the beauty of another sunset, and the next you’re soaring through the clouds on a jet bound for a far off destination.
Have you paused to think about how magical it all is? Somewhere on this scattered mess of a planet, another human sat down to put ink on page to create the very thing in your hand that’s transporting you all over the universe without your ever having moved. To top it all off, it’s putting ideas in your head. Silently, and unnoticed it’s at work causing thoughts, emotions and all manner of things to come bubbling to the surface. Perhaps you’ll dream about some adventure you joined because of a good piece of writing.
Imagination is one of the greatest gifts the good Lord has given us, and good writing uses it to perfection. Amidst all the hustle and all the busyness of life, imagination comes riding in on a blue horse to save us. Its tales and adventures pick us up when we’re down, encourage us to try new things, and push us to dare greatly into the unknown.
The world would be a much more dreary place without it. Stories and books put color and zest into a world often considered gray. What would the world be without the wackiness of Alice in Wonderland, the adventures of Curious George or the triumphs of Sherlock Holmes? What would we understand about the deeper struggles of mankind without Moby Dick, The Great Gatsby or Of Mice & Men. Or of man’s inhumanity to man if not for Anne Frank’s Diary, George Orwell’s Animal Farm or Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird? These take truth, wrap it in language and then etch it into our hearts.
Storytelling—it’s mankind’s longest running tradition. Man has been gathering to listen and share tales as long as he’s had breath in his lungs. Whether it’s around a fire, transistor radio or farmhouse dinner table, it’s what we do. We recall episodes long past, spin yarns about the victories we’ve won and put lipstick on the underside of life.
Telling a good story takes more than interesting prose or vivid imagery; it requires timing, emotion and rhythm just like your favorite tune. It builds and builds towards the payoff—be that a laugh, outrage, or a tear. As Hank Williams asks the Drifter in “The Ride” by David Allan Coe:
"Drifter can ya make folks cry when you play and sing?
Have you paid your dues, can you moan the blues? Can you bend them, guitar strings?"
He said, "Boy can you make folks feel what you feel inside?
Anyone trying to entertain and regale you with a good ol’ fashion story is engaged in one of mankind’s grandest ideals. Go along for the ride.
“Stories,” Stephen King said, “are found things, like fossils in the ground.” So grab your shovel and get to digging. There’s no telling the whopper of a tale we’re likely to find.
I'm going to try several new things on the blog this year. Some of them will work and some of them won't, but we're going to give it a go anyway. Each month, I will share some variety of short fiction with you here. Be it a short story, a scene I'm working on or some rambling prose I found enjoyable to write. Regardless of the shape it takes, or its quality I hope you come along for the ride.