“I write not to get money, but for pleasure.”
Isaak Walton, from The Compleat Angler 1653
The gift of words…
Of all the gifts inherent to me, the one I am most appreciative of is creativity. Though I seek a creative path with most of my affairs, my primary creative outlet is writing essays. I see each essay as a kind of performance. The beauty for me is that I am under no scrutiny when I perform. I am free to make mistakes, change directions, retool, stop and start again, or throw it away without anyone but me ever knowing about it.
If I have completed an essay, and thrown it out to be read by an audience of dozens, it’s because I feel I have done my best with it. If read by even a few, I feel validated even when criticized. I understand that not everyone will be interested in what I have to share, while others may have interest but not agree with my message. If a few people find value in my thoughts, that’s great, but I would write anyway.
I am not a professional writer. I am a hobbyist who, like most hobbyists, would rather spend time working at my craft than at my job. At this point, I feel that I am a capable amateur. Not world class, but a better writer than many who are professionals. I enjoy my job as a fitness trainer, and also see that as a creative outlet, it’s just that writing is a necessary compulsion for me. One benefit of my day job is that it affords me the time to write.
I can write a 1,000-word essay in less than an hour, and do so with relative ease. In fact, if I begin taking too long on an essay, I’m usually overthinking it. When this happens, I will put it aside or just throw it away. My creative side wants my words to flow, not be forced or hurried into place.
If the truth be told, I could not write a lick if not for modern word processing software. My mind is too disorganized to write in longhand, and in linear fashion. That I can cut, paste, backspace, and try different paragraphs in different places serves my dyslexic brain well. If words are the color pallet of my creativity, editing options are my brush.
Here’s the irony; I read at less than an 8th grade level. Though writing essays is easy for me, reading one takes work – because I have to see all the words at once. Reading a book is an outright chore. I don’t enjoy reading. I do read on occasion. Most of what I physically read are online articles, columns, and blogs. A friend or client might hand me a book. When this happens, I make every attempt to read it even if I do struggle with the process. It’s important to me to honor a gift from another, even if it is a book. Honestly though, I remember very little of what I read. I listen to books. I listen to books every day of my life.
My comprehension when listening is greater than when I read, probably because when I listen to books I’m active. I don’t just sit and listen to books. I listen to books while I clean, while I organize, and when I exercise. I listen to Kurt Vonnegut when I deadlift, and Stephen Hawking when I bench press. I believe the activity with my body frees my brain up to absorb information better than if I just sat and listened.
There are times when I will buy a hardcopy of a book I am listening to. If I find a life-changing value with it, I will read portions of it concurrently – not as I am actually listening to the book, but in the same time frame. This allows me to use a highlighter on certain passages of the hard copy which I can easily find and review later.
The books which interest me most are on science and the humanities. I don’t listen to much fiction – there is enough of that already in my head. There’s something about a book being spoken into my mind, especially when done by a good narrator – it’s as though the voice of God is projecting it to me, or the voice of an authority figure anyway.
My library and my shame…
With my listening done digitally, my book shelf is my phone. I know for my literary-minded friends this is near sacrilege – to not have a wall or a room full of books. My entire library fits in my pocket. I like that it is always with me. I wonder if my more literate friends ever feel sad that they leave their library behind as they walk out of their home each day.
The collection of my own writings is even less soulful. I don’t save hard copies or even digital copies of what I write. After I complete an essay and post it to my blog, I delete the Word document from my laptop. All the thoughts I am so compelled to forge and to share, I trust to the gods of Google and WordPress, that anyone who might be interested in them will be able to find them, stored on a server in some unknown location with trillions of other data bits until the end of time.
That I write with the aid of technology feels good. I enjoy the process, and am proud of the way I create my essays from my laptop. People seem to be very accepting of this. That I depend on technology for my learning, in place of reading, doesn’t sit as well in my head. I feel guilty, often ashamed that I can’t read that well, and that opening a book intimidates me. However, my biology conspired against me ever becoming a good reader. My eyes play tricks with words, and no amount of practice makes this better. In the scope of reading and writing, this is just who I am.
Whether they are printed on parchment or sent to straight to silicon, words are the primary messengers of all of our ideas. Words allow us to share so much. For my part, the words I send out each week are a message in a digital bottle. I never know where they will wash up, but I am always hopeful they will be read by someone. Be well… rc
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