A few years ago, while attending the Tallgrass Writing Workshop at ESU, I found myself complaining to one of the guest speakers about how I never got a chance to work on my still unfinished novel. I was working long hours and traveling at the time but his response was, "That's no excuse, writers write.”
I have thought of that many times since and what he says is true. Writers write. I have been composing sentences in my head almost from the time I first learned to read, at least from the first time that I chanced upon a sentence so finely crafted that I wished it was my own. As I was a solitary person, my opportunities to compose the perfect sentence were endless. I would spend hours exploring the wooded area adjoining our house, all the time imagining and writing stories in my head.
In school, I wasn’t the best student, but if writing was required, I relished the challenge. The first day of my eleventh-grade government class, the teacher stated that he did not believe in grades higher than “A”. He did not give A+ for any reason. He should not have challenged me. At the end of the semester, when the term papers were returned, he apologized in front of the whole class as he returned my paper with a big A+ circled in red to me. I do not remember what the subject of my paper was, but I remember working on it for days until the writing was the best I had to offer.
Very few realize that there is tremendous benefit in being able to write documents that are well crafted; letters, reports, term papers, proposals, even e-mails can produce the desired results when well written. To succeed in business, education, or any endeavor, one must be able to produce good writing.
But the written word was created for more than just utility. When I was younger one of my favorite books was Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. I read it over and over, underlining phrases I found to be a delight. There are words that convey thoughts and ideas, and then there are words that convey emotion, light and music and fragrance, an assault to my eyes, my ears, and my mind. Writers are inspired to create something that will live on long after us.
In 1941, John Gillespie Magee Junior was a nineteen-year-old airman in the Royal Canadian Air Force, stationed in Great Britain when he sent his sonnet “High Flight” to his parents in a letter. Little did he know that his words would be immortalized some forty-five years later by an American president when Ronald Regan addressed the nation after the challenger catastrophe in 1986.
“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;”
“And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”
A few months later he was dead, killed in a mid-air collision over the hamlet of Roxholme in Lincolnshire. That someone so young, whose life was cut so short, could leave such a rich legacy in so few words attests to the power that we possess when we write.
There is a trend today to reduce our communication to abbreviations, acronyms, and Emoji’s. In doing so, we are losing the ability to truly communicate, the ability to share a piece of ourselves rather than regurgitating a tired old phrase that is part of the popular lexicon. ROTFLMAO does not convey the same emotion as the few simple words “danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings”.
We may be lurching towards becoming a nation of illiterates, but for a few of us, writers still write!