The Tree

I’ve written from time to time here about the importance of being an accurate writer, not a good writer. The writer merely translates as accurately as possible the valuable idea she sees in her imagination into words. The writing is good only if it is accurate. I thought of this when, as a part of our homeschooling last year, my son and I read some of the early chapters of the Old Testament. Sawyer had developed some hostile ideas about religion, mainly owing the sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, and so I thought it would be good to show him that there’s more to religion than pedophilia. It had been a while since I’d read the Creation Myth, but there were few surprises. I remembered how in the six days it took God to make the Heavens and the Earth he found everything he made “good.” Sawyer and I had a few laughs about that. Who’s going to argue with him? Who’ll workshop the universe?

But then we came to The Tree. In my memory, Adam and Eve ate from the “Tree of Knowledge.” In the version we own, however, this tree is described as The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad. This is very different. And I thought, “Yes. That is exactly what will get you kicked out of The Garden.”

This is why I prefer accurate writing. I want back in The Garden. As soon as the idea of “bad writing” exists, we will write as often to avoid being bad as we will to be good. In fact, to say you have written something “good” is merely to have been granted a temporary stay of execution, for in your very next sentence you might commit the sin of bad writing, offering the world something worthless and stupid and obvious and dull. And if the writing is worthless and stupid and obvious and dull, maybe – just maybe – the one who wrote it is too.

This is untrue, and I would like to say also unthinkable, but humans can think anything. So think of accuracy, think of translating the lovely, valuable, interesting idea in your mind into something other people can see and feel and know as you have seen and felt and known it. Do this, and step away, for your work is done, and so it is your seventh day, and now you can rest.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.inddWrite Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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