What Being a Writer – and a Decent Human Being – Is All About

DCM_9022“If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.”
Rainer Marie Wilke, Letters to a Young Poet

My free moments – those I manage to squeeze into my day to write and to read and to think, the gaps when I’m not consumed by the tasks required to run a home and care for a toddler – have, in recent days, been filled to the brim with the craft of fiction. I don’t know much about this branch of writing, haven’t spent much time doing it, so when the opportunity to take a free course on the subject came, I took it, and now I find myself thinking about dialogue as I wash dishes, contemplating character development in the shower, plotting out a new scene while drifting off to sleep.

As I’ve participated in this course, as I’ve watched videos and written peer reviews and contributed to discussion forums, I’ve realized something that should have been obvious, something that I should have known all along:

Once you’ve learned the basics, the mechanics, the rules of grammar and style and structure, being a good writer (be it fiction or non-fiction, an essay or a story or a blog post or something else entirely) means being a good observer. It means watching the world around you. It means listening to what is and isn’t said in conversation and noticing body language and attitude and manner of dress. It means learning to recognize the beauty and the pain and the joy and the sorrow in the minute and everyday occurrences around you and then bringing those things to the attention of others. Being a  good writer is all about learning to see.

And as I list these things out, as I think about learning to see – really see – the world around me and the people in it, it occurs to me that those are the very things, when tempered with love and empathy and understanding, that make somebody a decent human being.

May I be writer enough – or rather, human enough – to see. To open my eyes. To hear. To observe and to marvel and to wonder, to respond with joy and with gratitude. May I learn to call forth the riches of my daily life, and to share them freely with others.

2 response to "What Being a Writer – and a Decent Human Being – Is All About"

  1. By: jywatkins Posted: October 19, 2015

    I love this Jenn. I’ve been thinking these last couple days about why my writing has been so spotty lately, so inconsistent, and I know it’s because I’m busy. But it’s not just that I’m lacking in time to write, but lacking in time to breathe and stop to look around. I keep feeling like I have nothing to say but that’s because October has been a whirlwind and I haven’t had a chance to see and observe and then sit and write. I think I have trouble writing when life is busy because even when I do make time to sit and write, I haven’t been present enough and observant enough to know what to write about. It’s so much about being open and connecting with what’s happening around you.

    • By: Jenn Posted: October 19, 2015

      Yes, exactly, Jamie. I find that, in my busy times, when I don’t carve out space to sit and think and be, I finally find a few moments to write and I am completely blank. Nothing to say. But if I’ve had that space, the words and ideas flow.

      I hope things slow down a bit for you soon!

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