Of All the arts writing may be the most disciplined, the most mature expression, involving as it does not only inspiration and technique but understanding and insight. The depth of writing comes from the writer's own self. Years of being a sponge are absorbed and understood before the results can be translated into effective words.
The statement that reading makes a full man; writing makes a precise man is true. In the struggle to express what you feel or know, your "tools" (words) are constantly sorted over to find the best ones to clearly express a feeling or idea; paint a mental picture. As someone who spent several years involved in professional acting before turning to writing I once wrote: "As an actress I used emotion to express someone else's words and arouse feeling in my audience. As a writer I first had to reach feeling, then carefully choose my words to arouse emotion in my reader."
Writing with any depth begins with feeling that reflects universality if it is to create empathy in the reader. Music can connect emotionally without stirring intellect. Art also has emotional appeal, plus visual appreciation. And both the artist and the musician always seem more at home with themselves than the writer.
Why? Beccause the writer always seems to be two people -- the Experiencer and the Observer. The first, feeling the emotion of the moment. The second, standing in a corner analyzing, recording, remembering.
Most of us learn to live with this paradox. In fact, I guess a writer is a paradox. On the one hand you empathize with others deeply, feeling things intensely. On the other hand the Observer in you creates an odd detachment, even in the midst of an intense experience. You act, and you react. At the same time you also observe your actions and your reactions!
This sometimes causes problems in relating to others. They do not understand this strange ability to see beyond the moment or emotion, and may consider it coldness. It is not, most definitely. It is your purpose as a translator of human experience into insight for the benefit of others who do not possess this particular kind of mental duality.
For this reason writers are often misunderstood -- except by other writers. People you love deeply may sometimes feel this indicates a lack of caring. Nothing could be further from the truth, but this is how it may appear to them. The writer is first a writer, and then a person. Or so it seems. It is as if there is something inside that will out -- whether you want it to or not. And this nagging creativity will not let you rest. It will not let you settle for outlets others find completely fulfilling.
Most people go through an experience and then move on, only vaguely sensing what it was all about. But the writer always has to know what it was all about. In retrospect you always turn even the most intense feeling inside out. My sister once asked me: "Why do you have to pick the petals off the rose?"
I could only answer that picking off the petals would uncover causes; maybe even answers. So in a way a writer may be a mind surgeon exposing cancers in the collective mind. And because of the courage to expose them, all are challenged to seek solutions.
In spite of all this writers can have exceptionally full lives; can experience special relationships because we grow as we write. We learn, even as we teach. We see, even as we observe.
And, eventually, we learn to accept and live with this peculiar duality that makes us what we are -- writers!
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Copyright (c) 2007 by Anne Forrest Elmore