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" ... [writing] as a skill that is justified by its being done well."

Yes! Thank you for this. (I would like to write something pithy here, like "Talk is cheap, but writing is priceless", but as what I would like doesn't always come to me. ;)


I've just spent a little while with the QC Report and wish only to stick a fork in my own eye because I did not write those words myself and now I never will.
Many thanks for the new read.

Ken Muldrew

Writers have access to a person's undivided attention; they alone have the potential to radically subvert a person's thoughts. They are actually able to gain control of the internal conversation that goes on in someone's mind, and if they know how to capture that internal voice and hold it focussed (i.e. if they write well) then they can steer that voice toward saying things that would never otherwise be uttered inside the shelter of someone's personal thoughtspace. That gives writers a power over other people that is truly awesome when you consider how readily we begin reading some passage or other without any process of quarantine for statistical ideological content analysis.

But the trick is holding onto that internal voice and preventing the reader from pausing to reflect on the thoughts being expressed. For in reflection we are wont to question, to allow our internal voice to dissent and become skeptical. The writer who cannot hold our attention through art is beholden to express ideas that we are predisposed to consider; the writer who can master our attention can express anything and we are compelled to listen.

The combination of such skillful writing along with an advocacy of radical ideas that can potentially alter our lives is rare, and thankfully so, or we might find ourselves treating texts as cautiously as we treat pathogens. There are likely a few people who have reached the end of a story like "The Mysterious Stranger" and wished they had never started. It is probably fortunate that most gifted writers are more subtle, or even purely entertaining. We can revel in giving ourselves over to the magic of great writing without the fear that our actions rhyme with those of the ancient Trojans, pulling the wooden horse within the city walls.

Politicians, who hunger for power over individuals, must envy writers above all other humans. Those without the wit, without the art, to put their words and their thoughts inside the minds of those who they wish to dominate, turn to torture to compel outward acts of submission so that they might pretend to be capable of leading and consolidating the public will. One need only compare the rhetorical swill of the current pretender to such gems as the Gettysburg Address or any of those high, fine notes penned by Bobby Kennedy, to understand the frustration the man must feel. On some level, or perhaps on every level, he must know that he just isn't good enough and no amount of effort will ever bring him into the pantheon.

That poor writers who crave power must envy is rather transparent, but I often wonder how great writers feel about the responsibility of the power they wield. They are like the gods of the ancients who are subject to the same whims, jealousies, grudges, and other flaws that afflict mere humans, yet they possess the power to intervene in the lives of mortals on the basis of these fleeting absurdities. Do great writers deliberately restrain themselves so that they do not unduly affect the personal lives of their readers, or if not out of empathy perhaps just to ease the moral burden that they might feel upon themselves should they come to question an opinion that was long ago solidified into the text of history.

I also wonder if those ancient gods were reflections of ancient writers. When the written word was new, the power that came forth from something so seemingly innocuous (for what harm can come from markings in clay that merely indicate the quantity and type of items held within a sealed container) must surely have been an unintended consequence of legendary proportions. Those who gained an early mastery of the new technology would truly be wizards, with the power to influence the lives of the common people in response to all the petty emotions that affected them on a daily basis.

Sorry to go on like this. Good writing is like treasure and I'm glad to have someone like you sharing a vein when you find one. Thanks,


"It keeps getting up, dashing away, and making itself larger and more ungainly."

That may be the best description of a writer's need for an editor (either him or herself or an external one) I've ever seen.

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