A Good Reminder
Every morning, my wife reads aloud to me from a book called A Course in Miracles. The version we read is broken into lessons, some of which are no more than two paragraphs long. If they are short enough, Jen reads through them twice, which is exactly what she did the other morning. When she read the last sentence for the second time she observed, “Isn’t that funny. I have no memory of that sentence from the first time I read it.” All of two minutes had elapsed between the first and second reading, and yet she had already forgotten. As a writer, this is a mildly unsettling experience. Though not everyone attends to every sentence with Joycean precision, if we did not believe a sentence belonged in a piece, if it did not serve that piece, we would take it out. We left it there because we believed it was a part of the whole. We left it there because without it, we did not believe our story or poem or essay would be complete.
Yet ninety-nine percent of what we write is almost immediately forgotten. This is the kind of statistic that can drain all the meaning out of our work. Why bother waiting for the right word to arrive if that word is only going to pass through my readers’ sieve-like minds and into oblivion? We do so for two reasons. First, we do it for ourselves. We do it because the experience of waiting for the right word is meaningful to us whether anyone reads and remembers it or not. The practice of writing connects us to ourselves and what we value most, and whether anyone remembers what we have written cannot change this because with luck we were changed with the writing.
But we also do it for our readers. Our stories are journeys, and the words and sentences and scenes are bricks we lay in that path so our readers’ way is smooth. No one remembers every brick in the road they travel, but those bricks were never the point. We are always guiding our readers home, to that destination they may have forgotten, and that we have in our telling helped them remember.
Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.