As an author and one who has occasionally counseled other aspiring writers, I have often reflected on how seemingly easy it is to become a writer, and how hard it is to become a published writer. Anyone can embark on a writing career because it poses no economic barriers to entry. All that is needed, at a bare minimum, are the most common of tools—a pad and pencil. Even the acquisition of a computer has fallen within the means of most people with an inclination for putting words on paper. And, it appears that writing requires only a primary education to get started.
If, however, we look more closely at this craft, to examine just what it is that a writer does, we find that the wordsmith is in reality an artist who merely happens to use different tools. Instead of brush and oils he paints his canvas with pen and ink. Instead of a musical instrument using notes and scales, he composes his melodies with syllables, words, and sentences. Instead of hammer and chisel he painstakingly sculpts paragraphs, chapters, and entire books. Instead of camera and film, he takes snapshots of his thoughts and develops them on his notepad or keyboard. Instead of stimulating our brains with a flood of colors, shapes, or sounds, he tickles our senses with metaphors and similes that send us on flights of fancy.
The author’s interpretation of personal experiences, and the world in which we live, is the tapestry from which he creates and displays his artistry. Like all other artists, however, the writer has a vision of the world that the casual observer overlooks, or must be induced to see. The writer is like an architect, but one who designs his buildings with ideas riveted into the girders of common speech. He toils in solitude, coping with the fact that his art form is under-appreciated because it seems that anyone can do it and indeed many try. Yet, to be successful, the writer must be extraordinarily creative, applying his talent in ways that others can only appreciate as readers.
In spite of the obvious artistry involved and pleasure derived, writing as a profession is becoming an endangered species. Although there is no shortage of writing talent in this modern age, the written word is surely under attack from many directions. It is in the process of being eclipsed by the proliferation of electronic devices in today’s marketplace. The shorthand of text messaging is but one example of writing’s demise. This nuveau method of communication uses the barest of syllables and words, totally unencumbered by the elegance of language, all in order to feed society’s ever-increasing need for instant gratification. Booksellers are struggling. Publishers produce fewer titles and refuse to print books by unknown authors. Many newspapers no longer do book reviews, the irony of which seems to be lost on them. Think about it—the very same people who are in the business of selling the printed word, are doing less and less to promote reading of the self-same printed word, all in the name of cost effectiveness. How long will it be before they convince their remaining customers that they too are obsolete?
So, in the interest of keeping creative writing alive, make a vow to turn off the TV, iPod, DVD, cell phone, or whatever device is holding you hostage, and pick up a book. Support your local library and the various reading programs they sponsor. Encourage youngsters to read books for they hold the future of writing in their hands. And, the next time you read something and instinctively say, “That’s really good!” or, “I wish I could write like that!” pause for a moment and reflect on the labor and creativity that went into evoking your response. You’ll be more appreciative of what it takes to be a good writer and hopefully will want to see that art form continue to survive.