by Rick H
An essay with tips on bringing out our best in our writing.
The Twelve Dollar Burger
There it is, you see it and bam! Two clicks and it's open. Another wisp of creativeness written for the world to see. Click, click and another big item, bitem for short, promises to take you on a literary journey into the unknown. You let this mismatched box of misplaced ions, catalog, file, and otherwise deal with the numbers and details as your eyes fall on the opening line. Your eyes focus, your brain engages and you begin. Not bad you think. The first line's passion draws you in and you begin the ride within this vehicle of literary exploration.
You hit a misspelling and missed punctuation. You ride easily and confidently over this bumpy pothole. Barely noticing the mechanical difficulties. Your ride continues. You are, after all, curious to check out the destination. You plan on telling the driver all about the view and ride later in a review. The drivers voice is powerful, expressing hot emotion. The voice is like the man on a street corner, crying of turmoil and worldly woe to passer-bys from atop the proverbial soap box.
Now I find I am one of that crowd. Drawn in by the emotion of the passionate preacher's plea. I stop. I listen. I listen closer. Then in an instant his eye falls upon me! His voice rises and rises to a feverish pitch, frothy and pregnant with emotion.
Suddenly his cold steely gaze targets me. I am the one. I personally have now become his doer of great evil and worldly transgression. Solely for stopping to hear what this flaming voice is saying. I am now held accused. Branded as guilty, without trial or given defense, all because I stopped to hear, listen, and tried to understand what was so important it had to be said. Guilty! Guilty, the voice cries from the page. But I've done none of these things for which I am accused. My words are unheard or herald. He now forcefully condemns me along with the masses of faceless humanity. I am held accountable for undefined wrongs perceived by him, and him alone.
So what do I do, as this madman points his vehicle of rage over the dark abyss? What any sane person would do I bail out. I tuck and roll and escape. I am now safely back at my mouse and keyboard. A few more clicks and again this magic box handles the details and delivers me unto a more tranquil and poetic setting.
Aaah, life is quieter here. Now I look forward to a quaint carriage ride in a pastoral setting. There suddenly appears to be a problem with this vehicle. This charming old buggy has a major flat spot on one wheel. Clopping along with with no flow or smoothness for meter after meter. I glance over the finely crafted carriage edge. It is then that I absorb the reason for the wheel's condition. It is the road. It is deeply rutted and pocked with holes. Cluttered with rocks it bounces the carriage insistently towards its destination.
Misspellings, extra words, and's, the's, a's, that's and of's. Bumping me along both erratically and ceaselessly. Over punctuation, no punctuation. My wandering eye casts about, I spy man-servants laying in the grass napping. Sleeping. Derelict in their duties of smoothing the road ahead for my anticipated journey. Jarred until my teeth chatter and my bones ache, I separated from the once pastoral scene. Relentlessly rattled and propelled away from so beautiful and restful scene I am now disappointedly catatonic.
So what has this have to do with a twelve dollar hamburger? Plenty. Everything. Why do you walk into an upscale fancy pants restaurant not only pay twelve dollars for a burger but spend the time dressing up and preparing for the experience? It's because it looks wonderful. It smells good. The place feels elegant. Just being in there makes the world of the ordinary life disappear for a few brief units in time. It is all about the presentation and setting. Those are the only reasons why anyone willingly pays twelve dollars for a burger. People do it all the time and for the most part are happy to do it. It is not magic Bovine matter, it just a hamburger.
We, as writers, are the owners of this fine dining establishment. We are the cooks, the maitre d', the waiter,and waitress. We are also the interior designer. We make sure our guest is afforded the best out of his or her experience while dining on our creative delights.
For under three bucks any smoe with a skillet can fry up a burger twice as big and filling at home. We ask twelve bucks for ours. We have to provide the ambiance, the decor, the service, and most importantly, the food. We have to make that burger special! It has to appear, when presented, as the best burger ever to be highlighted on a gourmet magazine cover!
Writing is our craft and the diners are our readers. We don't want some cigarette lipped, sweaty, Neanderthal sliding a thumb imprinted bun at us! Why would we want to subject our readers to the same equivalent? Neither do we want some under cooked, e coli infested slab of meat and half frozen fries served to us! So why do so many of us rush out to post first drafts and then eagerly await reviews?
Now I suspect that I have the answer and it is a bit humbling. I honestly feel we are naturally egocentric as writers. That's not a bad thing, it is why we need, want, and have to write. We simply believe we have something worthwhile to say. We also want others to read and share in it with us. Well maybe not all of us. Some, like our angry preacher friend, write for therapy, hopefully finding the healing comfort that comes from understanding how and what we feel and think within ourselves. Journaling is truly an effective tool for this as is keeping a diary. I think most of us to a greater or lesser extent experience this sort of comforting benefit in our writing. It's part of the 'rush' that comes when an idea turns into a tangible object on the written page. However, personal writing is not the kind of writing I'm talking about though.
I'm talking about the kind of writing that is meant for an audience, a group of unknown individuals we are trying to engage, educate, enlighten, or entertain. An audience intimate enough to share ourselves with. Sharing to the very depth of who we really are. All that depth of self comes out in living characters, realistic dialogues, vibrant settings and flowing verse.
My point is this. We always need to always remember that all readers are our guest. Just because some of those readers write and understand the process does not in any form or fashion excuse us from the duty that requires us to respect them. I try to respect them more. Most of them know a heck of allot more about this craft than I do. I want to learn from them and the last thing I want to show them is that I don't care enough about them to really apply effort. Respect the reader, our customer if you will, enough so we naturally understand that they have a million other things that NEED doing. Instead they are taking the time to read something we wrote, I personally feel honored by that. Also understand that because what we can read here on WDC is free of charge, it is not free of cost. It cost time. And time is money and these days money's tight.
So I urge all of us to not under value our work. Spend time on it. Use a spell checker. Rewrite and rewrite. Polish it, find the best word you know to say exactly what you mean. Use the dinosaur in a book, Thesaurus. I am a firm believer that if you hunt through a dictionary to find words you don't normally use, then it's going to eventually bite you in the butt. Who are you trying to sound like anyway? It's not you, that's for sure. You write to express yourself, so be yourself. Don't fancy it all up just to look fancy, it'll come across phony and pompous. IF you are fancy and have a very high vocabulary use it and use it all. However my guess is, if that is you, you're off translating scrolls somewhere and too in demand to be here, so it doesn't really apply to you anyway. Next read it. Line by line. Fragment by fragment. Catch those nasty typos, punctuation's, and grammatical errors. Read it out loud. Hear the flow of your words. Listen for the cadence and the rough spots. Then polish them out. My poor dog has had to listen to some real serious dribble, but reading that crap out loud really helps me, him, eh, not so much.
If you are like me, left in a life with wasted or no opportunity for education in the craft of writing. Then I urge you, do what I am doing, take a class, they are widely available here, very affordable and scholarships are readily available to pretty much anyone that is serious about learning. That's how I am filling in the great gap of 'Gee I don't know if that's right or not' in my writing life.
Now in order to not be misunderstood I am not saying to be timid or even second guess yourself in posting. That is the reason we are all here isn't it? To help each other and to get that great feedback that makes us better. What I am saying is, apply yourself to your craft and treat writing as such. Treat it with the value in effort equal to the depth of it's meaning to you. Apply that writing standard with the best effort you possibly can. Do the work good writing requires. I guarantee that your rating and reviews will be more favorable. They will have no choice but to rise. This will come about because you truly earned it and that my friends is personal satisfaction at its finest. Remember the only way to get to the proverbial Carnegie Hall is, practice, practice, practice. So keep writing, because out there are readers hungry for what you have to say. So serve them your best twelve dollar burger.