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Only Connect; A Writer's Manifesto

Cover by Chloe Annetts @ chloeartdesign.com
Why does a writer write, an artist paint, a singer sing? And do artists and writers have gifts that can be taught? Or not?

I do think that there are exceptionally talented people with very special gifts. Genius talent, shall we say. But when my opera singer friend, Carla Lopez-Speciale, said to me one day that most people can learn to sing, I was taken aback. Her voice is exceptional. I could learn to do that? I don't think so. I think she meant that I could learn to sing for pleasure though, obviously, I'd never be an opera singer. No, I'm a writer. My talent lies there. My effort lies there.

I find inspiration in writers I admire, study their sentences, parse their plots. And I know why I write: I write to connect with my readers, domestic, overseas and interplanetary :). I write to stay grounded, alert and actively engaged in the world. I love words and beautiful sentences. I love to talk. I love to listen. I love to elicit stories from others. I love books, newspapers, magazines, literary magazines, online and print. I have created a body of work: articles, essays, fiction, flash fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, screen treatment. I have admirers and detractors. I keep on writing regardless of opinion or the money I earn writing.

Some of my followers are family, some are friends, some are colleagues, some are strangers. Every now and again, one of these followers responds or “likes” what I’ve written to assure me they are following me, or agree with what I have said, or don’t agree with what I’ve said, or have something interesting to add to what I’ve said. Or they have been inspired to write their own posts and tweets and novels, which is gratifying. Or they remain silent. Sometimes, they thank me. I will always respond to whatever appears on my FB or Twitter posts. It’s a conversation, a discourse.

But like most writers, I work in a self-imposed solitary confinement 85-90% of the time. One reason, among many, I love FB, one reason among many I love to teach. Once a week at least, I am in the presence of other writers. The heat inside me and my students is too much to bear without an artistic outlet. We are hyper-sensitive and keenly observant. Personal suffering or intense joyful experience is transformed into words. The goal is to write from the heart with precision.

There is us—the writers—and the reading world out there—the consumers of writing—who buy our books, read our articles, essays and stories, then toss them away with “I liked it,” or “I didn’t like it.” Or a book club discusses a book in two hours, a book that took a year to write. And we wonder if that book will stay on the shelf or get quickly recycled. And then the wondering stops and we press on to the next project.

Who will remember the days, weeks and months of hard work to create a work? Only the writer, only the artist.

And so it came as a welcome surprise to learn that the Canadian Writers Union is sponsoring an international #whywritersmatter campaign. Strokes and appreciation for the day to day devotion of the writer to his or her work. Excellent, thank you. A reminder that what we are doing is worth doing, the ultimate reward.

Please pitch in. Say something on my posts if you are inclined and/or on the international campaign website. Let us know you’re out there reading what we write. Celebrate our free society with a playful or thoughtful response. We need our writers and our intelligent readers this American election year more than ever. There's a demagogue out there trying to get our attention.


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