The Word for Writers
Over the years most writers have never enjoyed the fruit of their ‘labour’ so to speak, in their lifetime. Hoping and waiting to finally ‘arrive’ is the endevour of all writers. Writing is about writing and nothing else but writing or is it? It is obvious we have goals and audience who are the targets of our writing.
Keats, in a letter to Benjamin Bailey dated 8th Oct. 1817 comments about his hope and vision regarding one of the classic poems that he had been commissioned to write - Endymion- and this is what he says “it will be a trial of my powers of imagination and chiefly of my invention . . . and that when it is done it will take me, but a dozen paces towards the Temple of Fame-it makes me say - God forbid that I should be without such a task!
He finished his epic work - Endymion - in May, 1818, three years later in 1821 he left the world of the living. He was not to see for himself the desired ‘few paces to the Temple of Fame.’ Actually he was met with a lot of opposition from the powerful Tory Journals critics who were eager to attack his friend Leigh Hunt who was a poet and the Editor of Liberal Political News.
These reviewers ridiculed Endymion thus ruining his reputation. And considering that he was given to writing so as to support himself with the remuneration’s thereof this was quite a blow. As writers we are at times prone to the mechanizations of the cheap propagandist or peddlers of half and dishonest truths, despite our meager resources at times, being strong is not only a virtue but sometimes a
price to pay when faced with opposing and sometimes not only cynical, mischievous and at times well orchestrated hired guns in the industry or profession. Keats thus discouraged and not being able to raise enough money for his upkeep, exposed himself further to the ravages of Tuberculosis, which eventually killed him. While he had devoted his life to writing, he forgot that he was a qualified medical practitioner, it seems he forgot that his training trade or profession was a better fall back option and a deserved break from this sometimes very cruel world of writing.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, himself a symbol of triumph for the dedicated writers had to overcome despondency, ill health, tragic and unfortunate experiences in his family. He was a church minister who got disillusioned by his work, though coming from a long line of ministers in his family.
Count Tolstoy seems also to have reached a despairing point in his life. His beliefs, which largely dominated his writings, seem to have left him a devastated man. His church having excommunicated him broke the last straw. He did not have any other meaningful spiritual fall back. He thus dies a despondent man.
As writers, or scribes we are constantly bringing forth new value systems or re-establishing the old ones. “Then he said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” (Matthew 13:52) We are constantly engaging antagonistic and unfavourable values. Sometimes those with opposing views seem to be carrying the day, through their seemingly sound and profound beliefs.
Writing and life are on a continuum scale, as Paul puts in these words, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret
of being content in any and every situation, whether fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:12) In addition, what is this dear secret? In the verse that follows we discover Paul’s’ secret of being content. He blurts it out, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Verse 13). (NIV)
Henry David Thoreau seems to have caught Paul’s words and re-phrases them better in his famous works “Walden Ponds.” Moreover, he insists that, his trip to Walden Ponds was an experiment in simple living and not idle withdrawal from society.
From Paul one discovers that there are those moments in life when he could lay his clerical collar down as it were, and be engrossed in his coarse and tiring tent making profession without loosing his goal. He gave the world his theology and interpretations of the Old Testament doctrines. While he seemed to be a very ‘poor’ preacher as it were, compared to the great public speaker Apollo’s. Instead, he is the one who is credited with the greatest Christian legacy. Our saviour on his sermon on the mount ‘wrote’ as it were, in the oral template of everyday life’s and thirty or so years later after his death and resurrection his living words were transcribed and immortalized; giving the world a preamble of the kingdom principles. The Beatitudes ring forever and can be heard from the foothills of antiquity reverberating through out the human history.
What do we write, Just another thesis, sermon, poetry or an operational manual? Is it timeless, supra cultural or just scribbling? The posture of our hearts in relation to the Living Scripts, our foundation, and probably our mastery of language and the Message will determine to a large extent the ‘life’ or longevity of our writings. For by the end of the day we are the ‘living scripts’ not written by the human hand.
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