Two Recent Events Remind of the Power and Universality of Great Writing
The title from this blog post comes from an anonymous source. Whoever first said these words has my undying gratitude. Truer words have rarely been spoken– or written. This phrase runs through my mind often. Partly as confirmation of a known truth, partly as a challenge to write better.
Two recent experiences underline this truism for me. I am thinking you can relate to both.
A Lesson Close to Home
The first is more local and personal. The community I live in has a small gathering once a month called Writers Read. People in the community who have a story to tell, a poem to share, a thought or emotion to let out, come to read what they have. Others come to listen and perhaps to make an observation or two afterwards.
When I first heard of this group, I thought: “Oh, Sure. I bet that is fun. Half a dozen frustrated Hemmingways reading impenetrable prose to each other.” I always get a good laugh when life takes the opportunity to show you how wrong an assumption can be. Boy, was I wrong.
This is a group of about 40-50 that show up regularly. The breadth and depth of the talent, the power of the intellect, the precision of language blows you away. The group recently had to move its meeting location. They had gotten so popular that they outgrew their meeting site. The first day in the new site, about another 15-20 chairs had to be added. It is a quality experience in every sense, for reader and for listener.
I share this with you not just because I so admire this effort (which began, by the way, as a true grass roots initiative. It just sprang up and grew over the years). I share it because I am sure groups like this exist everywhere. If you don’t know of one in your area, get some friends together and start something. Maya Angelou once said, “Don’t die with stories still untold inside you.” Good advice.
Amidst the humdrum of daily life and “ordinary people,” profoundness and power wait to engage us. We all need reminders from time to time of the big things in life, both personal and societal. Groups like this can be our doorway. It is the gift that keeps on giving. Participate– as a reader, as a listener, as a writer. There is nothing more enticing or more daunting than a blank piece of paper or a blank screen. Take it on. You might be surprised what is inside yourself as well.
A Lesson from the World
The second experience is the passing of Toni Morrison. The many articles and reflections about her have reminded me of two important things. One is that there are people who speak for others that have no voice. They are powerful and necessary. Most of us do not read them often enough, and that is our loss. Morrison is often seen as a writer for Blacks. While that is an important part of her voice, it is not all. If we categorize such eloquence in a way that causes many of us not to read what is offered, shame on us. We waste a wonderful gift laid at our feet.
Take a look at what eight prominent writers, including Michelle Obama, had to say upon her passing. This will give you a hint of her gift to us all. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/08/09/eight-black-women-including-michelle-obama-toni-morrisons-life-legacy/
Now, go out and read some of her work.
There are others, of course, who get typecast or overlooked by potential readers. James Baldwin, for example, is having something of a well-deserved comeback these days. Pick up some of his work or check out one of his interviews. It will be time well spent. Last year, I wondered back into work attributed to Aristotle. I kept thinking how much I had forgotten from earlier times. How valuable and timely these words are today.
Words. Magic indeed. Go find some. Go write some.
If you find this blog worthy of your time and curiosity, I invite you to do two things:
(1) Join the conversation. Your voice counts here.
(2) Share the word about this post with friends and colleagues. Share a link in your emails and social media posts (https://agentsofreason.com). Let’s grow our circle.