The Obligation of the Writer

Man Writing Notes on wooden tableI’ve had little to say publicly lately, and I’ve been thinking about it of course. The days come in dark and go out with equal vigor, and I am busy in my life, with my children, in the silence.

This time of year is so precious. The quiet of holidays and the holidays of others. Closed offices, people immersing in their families and their homes with the solitude and excitement of year-end.

I love this time. While my work does not cease, it lulls a bit while my clients take rest. Come Monday, we will all be back with new energy and enthusiasm, and that time will come soon enough.

So I enjoy the gift of time and quiet. My children with their dad for a week, and so here we can clean their rooms, live simply, connect just the two of us. And then, the children return in full force and we are ready for them, so ready for the house to fill with sound and cheer, with smiles and gazes and hugs and coats piled high on the couch.

For the past three years, I’ve written every single day on this blog, committed to my audience and to the experience of life. But for the past few weeks, really since I returned from Israel, I haven’t been drawn to write daily.

Well, scratch that. I’ve been drawn to write but not here.

And so I’ve wondered if the lovely advice that started me writing daily those years ago was apt for the time or for me in a timeless way. And I’m convinced that in fact no one has brilliant things to say every day and no one wants to hear a single voice every day either.

Think about it. The best columnists pen two a week, tops. Magazine writers spend months researching, interviewing, crafting to tell the story right, for their audience.

When I worked on staff at newspapers, I wrote several articles each week – never one a day. But then, that was before the time of immediate journalism, of online posting and blogging to accompany the print edition.

I believe we have been very vocal for a long time and now it’s time to gather inward and be careful with our words.

I do not think it is good for journalism, or for society, or for the global population, to be speaking all the time, for everyone to hear.

A writer’s obligation, then, even in this digital age of immediacy, is to be scrupulous with our words, and careful with our voices. To use the power of the pen (or the keyboard, as it were) to speak up and speak out in ways that impact the listener, in ways that are memorable.

imageThe author Stephen King is so prolific that he’s been known to issue even more than a book in a single year. That is incredible hard work and craft and talent. But even two, even three, books a year would be his voice heard three times in long form, telling stories in ways that grip us in their grasp and take us on journeys inside ourselves and away from reality.

Or perhaps to reality.

When we choose what messages to take in, we transform our reality.

When we consider what another has to say, we change our sense of self.

And so, that’s why I now believe that the writer’s only obligation is to the craft itself – to not waste words or use words frivolously but to treasure words like little jewels in the palm of a cracked and dry hand, gems so precious that we must gaze at each one alone, to truly see the beauty in their depths.

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