WARNING: Multiple f bombs ahead.
In the previous episode of Writing: A Love/Hate Story, I revealed that I overthink shit like no one’s business. I am also OCD about writing to an insane level. You know why?
Because writing matters.
Word choice matters.
Plot and character development matter.
Pacing and internal consistency matter.
And as a writer, you have the obligation to value them and devote yourself to crafting them to the best of your ability. If you don’t, then you crap on the craft, you cheat your readers, and you are a lousy human being. No, I’m not kidding.
Look, everyone churns out meaningless stuff from time to time. But if you see yourself as a writer, then know this. Writers have THE most sacred job in civilization. Think about it. Standard definitions highlight six key components of civilization:
- Large population centers
- Monumental architecture and unique art styles
- Shared communication strategies
- Systems for administering territories (i.e., government)
- Division of labor
- Division of people into social and economic classes.
Writing touches all of those and, in fact, none of them can happen without writing. (The Inca stand as the lone example of a civilization without writing per se.)
- To gather people in large numbers, you need ways of explaining where everything is, how to get food, where to live. Talking is slow, writing and visual instruction is fast.
- Architecture is almost impossible without writing. Sure, a lot of its language is math, but it still requires writing to communicate what needs to be built where and how.
- Writers speak the universal truths that bind humanity together, whether that means describing the life of a woman in Victorian England, a slave in antebellum America, an old man fighting with a gigantic fish, etc., it’s the writer’s responsibility to preserve what that means.
- Writers create the narrative of history. We decide what is remembered, what is forgotten, what is valued, what is reviled.
There is no greater responsibility, and if you take up a pen (metaphorically or literally), then you had better fucking well accept that.