Thursday, September 15, 2011

Keep 'em coming!

I guess rather naively I thought that conversation, letters and email were back and forth.  My father asked why I didn't write to my mother more often.  I answered that I wrote back immediately after getting any letter or post card from Mom.  He said,"Just write, Son, keep writing.  Don't wait for her to write to you."

That was truly the first time I ever thought of just writing.  Of course!  Many people, including my mom, "don't know what to write about".  When asked why, they will often explain that nothing exciting happens in their life.  High school and college are supposed to be places where we learn how to write.  We read great poets, essayists and playwrights and see what moving words look like. Yet, just as most people do not seem to gain much of a habit of reading books from their higher schooling, neither do they get a habit of putting words together.  

It is somewhat like carpentry.  You have to build a collection of words that show visual and other details, feelings, ideas.  A good collection can be built on any subject but it does take a little attention.  Right where you are, you can see all sorts of things to write about.  Just reflecting on what has happened to you today, you will find events, puzzles, satisfying moments and irritations that can be a foundation for writing. Naturally, if I rescue a beautiful princess from a fiery dragon, it may well be the event I decide to write to Mom about.  

But I have learned from experience that the first step is to apply my bottom to a chair and my fingers to a keyboard.  Get those words flowing!  Each word, each thought elicits more.  The more I write, the faster and more easily I can weigh what comes to mind for value, interest, charm, surprise.  So, the more I write, the better I become at assembling a collection of words, at aiming for the interests of my audience, at making simple statements that ring true.  

I have found that repeated attempts at communication in any form are far more effective that a single try.  Sending some note and waiting hopefully for a positive reply is stacking the odds against myself.  Try it on a relative you wish you were closer to or someone you love or admire.  Send a note.  Expect no reply.  Get no reply.  Send another note.  Over time, my dad's idea showed itself to be right: just keep those letters coming.  Send them regularly and often for 6 months or a year.  Use them to track your life and to develop greater speed and ease expressing yourself.  You will benefit and so will those who receive your writing.

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