Although I rarely address it directly in this space, I have always been a student of what we call craft. Though I have avoided writing classes and books on writing, I have always read other writers with an eye out for what I think works and what I think doesn’t work. As we all know, reading is second only to writing in the necessities of this discipline. But writing is still first, and it is here that I am practicing even as I am working. This is how we get better, yes? We ask ourselves: Is there a quicker way to say that? Could this be more honest? Could this be more accurate? Could this be funnier, or sadder, or livelier?
These are all good questions, and when answered honestly, my work improves daily. This voice is like an inner coach, goading me on with gentle, relentless dissatisfaction. But this coach must be gentle. I call upon him when rereading my work, and if he is harsh, if he asks, “Why did you write that?” I will come to fear his eye. Now I will not be able to read my work honestly, and be inclined to call what is unfinished finished simply to avoid the coach’s whip.
I felt that whip for years and yet never knew where the scars had come from. If asked, I’d say, “Oh, that time the teacher said . . .” or, “There was this older writer I knew once who said . . .” But all these people did was show me how to hold the whip and how best to crack it. As with most things in my life, I perfected my technique in private.
It is odd to finally look down and see what is in your hands. If it’s there, then it has to be there for a reason, doesn’t it? Except once you have seen the whip, once you are aware you are holding it, the reasons are strangely absent. Something about getting better . . .. You can’t remember now, and as you put it down, you discover you can practice kindness in private also.
If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.
You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com