Writing is liking learning to whistle.
For some it’ll come easier than it will for others. But then that’s life, and the same could be said about anything. Okay then, so what’s my point?
My point is, that you still have to try. But not just try once and say, “Oh well, at least I tried.” That’s bullshit. As the saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” But then there’s also the WC Fields addendum. “Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.” So then it comes down to; when do you decide to quit? When should it be determined that you’re crossing the line into insanity? I don’t have an answer. But I think it’s safe to say that while pursuing being an author/writer, you will cross that line.
To write is to open up aspects of yourself that you didn’t even know existed. Writing changes lives. Sometimes, hopefully, for the better. But sometimes not. The pen is mightier than the sword after all.
A swords primary purpose is to slay. To extinguish the flame of another. But a pen. A pen can ignite the flames of passion, of creativity, of hope, love, empathy. But it can also inspire fear, sadness, anger, and hatred. Thoughts and ideas are the greatest weapons humankind will ever wield, and when written down they become snapshots of our existence. Glimpses of who we are.
Everyone has a story within them. I believe that. It may not be a great story, or even a good one. At first. To become good, possibly even great at something, you have to keep working at it. You have to push yourself to improve. The keyword being, ‘improve.’
Which brings me back to whistling. Whistling may seem like any easy thing to do, once you’ve learned how to do it. But it does require some trial and error. Just putting your lips together and blowing doesn’t quite cut it. Whistling depends on a number of factors, such as: lip formation, placement of tongue, force of breath, etc.
One of my new years resolutions was to finally learn how to whistle. And guess what? I did it. After years of simply saying, “I can’t whistle,” and leaving it at that, I finally said, “I’m going to whistle, even if it kills me.”
It nearly came to that. I spent the last month trying, over and over again, putting my lips together and blowing. At first my whistle was barely audible, but slowly, with modifications, it got louder and louder. Along the way I started to drive my wife nuts with my constant fluctuations in pitch. I’m still not great at it, or even good, and now I’m trying to whistle every little tune I hear. I still may not survive this resolution.
So why did it take me so long? Insight, I don’t like to look like an idiot, which sometimes in and of itself, makes me appear to be one anyway. I always felt stupid when I tried to whistle in the past, oh, who am I kidding, I’ve felt like an idiot for the past month. The difference though, is of course, effort. In the past I never really put in the effort, but when i finally did, I succeeded.
The beauty, and sometimes ugliness of the written word, is that there are a dozen different ways to structure a sentence. Some are better than others in their clarity, while others, while not as clear in their intentions, are far more easier on the ears. Stories are even more complicated. There’s pov, exposition, in media res, and a hundred other variables. All of us see things differently and it’s what we choose to focus on that gives us our writing style.
So, my advice is…let yourself look like an idiot, and don’t be afraid to be a little insane sometimes, it may just get you what you really want.