writers as historians and prophets
|In many self-help books, people are advised to write down their goals. The list becomes a tangible reminder of the ephemeral. Looking back at certain events in my life, I can detect a hint of something that came true almost exactly how I wrote it down mythically. What you write down can come true. Beginning writers worry about agents and publishing houses and such, when they should be worrying about getting their story written down on paper. Write the story first--then worry about publishing.
I am a writer. I like to think my voice will echo through time, even if it only echoes to my descendants. My descendants are my audience. Maybe I am vain to think they will care what Granny wrote back in 1994, but maybe they will be grateful instead. I often wish my ancestors had left letters or journals. I suppose that some of them were marginally illiterate, but I know of an ancestor who was a pastor and missionaried in South America, and another female ancestor who got a bachelor's degree back when most women did not go to college. It is those stories I long to know.
Although it may be somewhat contrived, I include details such as gas prices in my paper journal. Details like that can make an era come alive. I should do more of that, actually, instead of always writing about my feelings. If a reader picked up my journal right now, they would read nothing but inner dialogue. Where is the reality? Where is the life beyond the mind? How does a writer begin to explain the muddled and confusing world around her?
I majored in journalism in college, and I rarely use what I learn when I write a journal entry--who, what, why, when, where, and how, with a strong hook to lead in the reader. Instead, I whine about how crappy I feel or how crazy I am on any given day. What drivel. Perhaps I avoid writing about the outer because the inner is more accessible. I mean, who wants to read about my numbing days in front of the computer, sitting in a dull gray cubicle day after day, composing textbooks written by other people? Do they want to hear about my life at home, playing with my kid and waiting for my husband to get home from his evening work shift so we can spend some time together?
It is hard to decide what is worth recording. Maybe everything is worth recording. Sometimes, some things are better left unwritten. Some stories beg to be told. There is a balance, and as a writer, I walk that line between truth and fiction. Even what is "truth" is colored by my perceptions.
We have been blessed with the ability to read and write. In the past, education was considered out of reach for most people. Now, we take it for granted. People listen to books on tape or use keyboards the way other generations used cursive. It was a long way getting from Gutenberg to Microsoft, but we're there, and what will be our legacy to the future? I think that the most interesting voices are those of the Silent Majority. Paper, though, is a more long-lasting medium than electronic files.