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Who is a Writer?



One of the interesting things coming out of this blog-writing experience is the heartfelt comments I have received from people who say, almost shyly, that they, too, like to write, and do write. Poetry, stories, diaries, many never shared, some lost down through the clutter of years. These writings are important to the writer; they give voice to feelings, ideas, insights and life events in a way that no other format can. I would venture to say that a great many of us have poems we have written, tucked away in secret places, essays that never found a home, diaries that relate our travels, joys, sorrows and fears to no reader at all, or wonderful stories that remain unwritten, always with the thought, 'someday.'


All of us with secret poems, private diaries, homeless essays and not-yet-written stories, are writers. That is the bold claim of this blog post.


Who says a writer has to be published and paid? All of us who love language and use language, as opposed to, or in addition to, for instance, painting or music, to give voice to the parts of our lives that we cannot express in conversation, are writers. As Voltaire said so eloquently, "Writing is the painting of the voice." Written words, even if unshared, retain a life. The spoken word, though it may linger, soon wafts away.


Victor Hugo wrote that "A writer is a world trapped in a person." I love that phrase. There are worlds within us, finding their way out through our words. Inadequately, incompletely, but finding their way out nevertheless.


We, you and I, dear readers, are definitely not taxidermists or astronauts. We are not politicians or trapeze artists. But I am pretty sure that we are all writers in one way or another.


My mother, child of the depression, brought up in abject poverty, struggled all her life to find a way to happiness. I don't think she did, but she found her voice. She was a poet. This is hers:


It is the poet's burden and his glory

To recognize the hours as they pass,

To savour every minute as it hastens,

To hoard the shadows on the starlit grass,

To think forever, "This, this too must vanish

This too is transient, this golden day;

Even the joy, even the piercing sorrow

Must burn like sunset fire, then fade away.

Even this flesh, so eager for tomorrow,

Must go the way of all predestined clay."

It is the poet's burden – and his crown –

Never to clasp earth's joy without a weeping,

Without the pang that we must lay it down.


Perhaps my mother's poetry captures the claim by Emily Dickenson (herself a somewhat melancholy poet) that, "A wounded deer leaps the highest." When my mother gave me her two slim volumes of poetry I was honored and touched. These are parts of her deepest self that I did know.


Share your writing. Write down the stories that will pass to your great, great grandchildren. Give some of your poems to your friends and family. Even diary entries, which may have been deeply personal when you wrote them, when read retrospectively offer windows on your life as well as acting as tiny time capsules. Do not fear criticism or rejection. Aristotle tells us that, "Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing." And, we might add, by writing nothing, or by sharing what we write with no one. Claim your voice, Writer.


I love hearing from you, and hope you will continue to share your thoughts about these blog posts.


Till next time.


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