It took quite some time to realize it; but, like other art forms, good writing requires a thought process. True, the initial seed or idea, or theme itself may just "pop" into your head while you're driving down the road. However, once the inspiration has sprung itself upon you, the task is seldom o'er 'til perspiration has been employed. "Verily I say unto you..." one must work one's grey cells in order to utilize the tools, data base, and other sundry equipment of the mind. "How so?", you may ask.
Consider if you will, the simple process of jotting down a few lines for mere rhyming. "Roses are red, violets are blue..." there is an infinite wealth of possibilities of words in the English language, from which to choose. What is the real goal of the rhyme, is it just sound? Not hardly! What is the theme? Is it: love, exposition, humor, declaration, or some other element in a vast array of choices? What is the mood or attitude? Is the writer's intent to simply please one individual paramour; or rather, to capture a prospective audience of millions? (Hopefully!)
What form shall be employed? Will it be: a sonnet, an ode, or perhaps haiku or tanka? Does meter matter? Certainly!
How many syllables will each line contain? Will they be consistent, or counter-weighted alternately? Shall we use tropes (figures of speech), such as: metaphors, similes, personif-ications, litotes, hyperboles, metonymies, or synecdoches?
Say what? I never even heard of some of those words...what are they? Darn, you mean I have to spend my valuable time, doing research, and look words up in a dictionary? Drat!
Just what does all of this "drivel" have to do with writing anyway?... usually, a great deal! The use of the "perfect" word or phrase, used in the "perfect" place or sense, will determine whether or not the author is highly regarded as a real Poet; or sadly relegated to the level of a mere rhymester, or poetaster. You're right, dear reader, I never heard of that word before, either!
What we are attempting to explain here, is very simple. Many people write; but "Good writers don't just write...they must also think!" They must: weigh alternatives, make decisions, take chances, attempt to be creative, avoid cliches and "hackneyed expressions"...and ultimately, make revisions! That, my friend, is the supreme sacrifice. Those truly beautiful words, which flew to you on gossamer wings, and you have "birthed", must now be: "red-lined", struck out, purged, deleted...how painful!
But, let us not tarry on such negatives, for behold ... salvation exists in the form of a man-made product, cryptically referred to as the...P.C. Yes, the personal computer has the wherewithal to save and store all those "pearls of wisdom" for future recall and restoration ...in your next "masterpiece". Voila!
In closing, I should like to point out one final, yet penultimate ingredient in the writing process. Let's take a moment to review: you got an idea, captured it on paper, made "all the right moves" (as listed above); but, who cares? Who will read it? Who will like it? How can anyone ever appreciate your newborn "baby" ..unless it is actually PUBLISHED? What a dirty word! I think that William Shakespeare described the situation very aptly, many years ago, when one of his now famous characters said, "...There lies the rub!"
A poem, an article, an essay, or even a book manuscript, will never "see the light of day" buried in the bottom drawer of your chiffonier ...under your "undies". So, how does a "would-be" writer ever get recognition in the form of publication? Where does a novice dare to send his or her
"brainchildren"? How does one market one's wares? I only wish I knew!
Confidence and persistence may well be the major criteria involved in the total process. Thus far, having only been published a "handful" of times (totally without remuneration),
I must honestly ponder the probability that this "piece" may never, ever be: read, critiqued, acknowledged to have some measure of "redeeming merit", and somehow actually reach your hands and mind.
Since deciding to "throw my hat in the ring" about two years ago, one extremely valuable lesson has been "drummed home" over and over --- DON'T QUIT YOUR REGULAR DAY-TIME JOB...NOT JUST YET!
Until one has actually been "discovered", and even after actually receiving a check someday, good writing does not necessarily provide a constant and dependable supply of monetary support. Simply speaking, if it doesn't "bring home the bacon" you may find yourself with only your words to eat. Accordingly, along with: writing, and thinking, and perspiring, and persisting...it would probably not be a bad idea to:(Note: that was a litote) make sure your words are soft and palatable, and ... keep plenty of salt handy ... never know when you might have to "eat" them!
Revised: April 21, 1998 ©
Thomas K. Hyland, Jr.