Thursday, March 1, 2007

A Good Day to Write

In the beginning were drawings smudged or incised on the walls of caves. Most of the drawings were representational enough to leave no doubt what objects they represented. Then came writers, men and women who tried to describe things with words instead of pictures. Immediately, the trouble began. To this day, the trouble persists. Too many words, too little meaning. We writers try to get things down on the page in much the same way our distant forbears tried to get the history of an event recorded on a rock. Dear Diary: Today, Bill, Fred, and others in the Hunting Clan brought down a wooly mammoth, which provided enough meat for a feast and some leftovers plus enough skin for some moccasins and one or two Zip-lock bags for carrying stuff. We were really hungry and this kept us going. Thanks to the spirits, the members of the Hunting Clan, and all the folks who contributed to the making of obsidian projectile points without which our tummies would still be rumbling for want of food.

Problem is, some of the women who helped butcher the wooly mammoth were ticked off at not being included in the acknowledgments, and so they pass along the judgment that the wooly mammoth was really road kill, happened upon by chance rather than having been hunted down.

Writers know all about such misadventures and collateral resentments. People have been misreading us for years. We try to write with greater clarity, but ironically, the more more we try, the more we contribute to the potential for misadventure and collateral resentment. Our goal is a simple one, overwhelming in its ambitious scope. We try to evoke rather than describe. On a good day, we can get some of our history down in such a way that the reader is pleased to have been taken along for the ride.

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