by María L. Trigos-Gilbert
You are reading this article because you are hungry. You are hungry for words. Reading this isn’t mandatory. That’s what separates good readers from “bad” readers, more likely bad attitudes toward the activity. Thus with the right disposition one enjoys to read, but without it one dreads it. Let’s begin with a basic question: What are words? Technically speaking one could say that words are isolated characters which put together with some other characters give us a specific symbol. This compound symbol has a meaning, at times universal and some other times personal.
For instance, the letter “L” is just one of the characters from our known and common alphabet which unified with some other letters gives us a word. For example, think of the word “love.” Love has many meanings like when one likes something, adores something or someone, or when one finds something extremely appealing. For instance, in the USA people sometimes say “I love pizza,” or “I love my husband.” In Spanish if someone says, “yo AMO a la pizza,” or “yo AMO comer pizza,” would be rather too strong. In Spanish the word love has a strong implication, and to say that one loves an object or a special meal would be as if this person is misusing the word, twisting its meaning. Of course, we could find a considerable number of people in the Spanish world using “to love” rather than “to like”. It depends how strong one wants to go about something or someone.
Thus words have different meanings for different people around the world. Appropriateness doesn’t have too much to do when we want to give a deep impact, whether a negative or a positive perception for those who are listening or reading our words until we finally complete the thought. The deal is to get the message across, in order to get some sort of feedback. In the end, that’s the main goal—to get a reaction from our listeners. At times we get what we have been expecting while some other times we get a bit puzzled by our receptors’ responses. Words’ impressions on people’s faces reflect our own projection. Scary, isn’t it? Can you imagine someone being bored while listening to you, reading one of your letters, articles, or whatever the case may be? Let’s be honest: Whose fault is it? Is it the listener’s or the speaker’s (whether verbally speaking or talking on paper) fault? Some people may think that the speaker or the writer has a lot to do with our attentiveness, or with our lack of interest on any given subject. This could be true, though many aspects play important roles.
It’s said that “a successful story shares its struggle and its victory with the one telling it and with the one listening to the speaker.” It’s like the North American saying: “A two ways street.” For instance, one’s body is made of pairs—two feet, two hands, two arms, two legs, TWO EARS, etc.—but only one mouth and one mind. What does it tell us? Could it be that we should listen more, instead of talking too much? Yes, this could be a good possibility. Those who speak too much, or even write too much make more mistakes than those who listen to themselves and to other people. This isn’t to say that we should become listeners who refuse to talk whenever the opportunity comes along. Furthermore, for every subject there is a recipient, but that doesn’t mean any given subject will satisfy everyone. It’s like when a fashion designer creates what in his or her opinion is a fine garment. Who will buy this perhaps amusing garment? More likely those who get attracted by its style, its color, but some people may find it unattractive or unsuitable to their needs. That’s fine since when one creates something, it isn’t meant to be for everybody. The business golden rule tells us that people have different tastes, needs, and wants. That’s okay, and it is the creator’s job to understand this important “detail”.
Components of an Excellent Writer
A writer is like a fashion designer; the writer observes his or her needs as well as other people’s needs. Of course, the difference is that a writer, a true writer, isn’t trying to amuse the readers. The writer tries to find important subjects which may cause some people to get interested. An excellent writer must be a great speaker and a very attentive listener since people’s actions and words are the writer’s sources. Even science fiction must carry some sort of reality, the one we know or understand. If a writer fails to include some kind of reality’s familiarity in his or her reading, then the writer loses the reader. If that happens, the message becomes like an unborn fetus.
A Writer’s Mind
Some people have asked me if Venezuelans and Spaniards are as sensitive as I am. I don’t think they mean sensible, though I find the second word more agreeable, ha. Well, that’s beside the point. A considerable number of writers are rather sensitive and sensible. Thus a person may be better defined for what this individual does for a living or for a hobby than for his or her nationality, though this also plays a crucial element in one’s character. Predisposition doesn’t come in handy when we are dealing with different people from different parts of the world. On the contrary, predisposition becomes dangerous if we oversimplify one’s personality (whoever that person may be). Actually writers are more sensitive and sensible than scientific people since writers tend to picture life’s events like painters do with their paintings.
We could say that artistic people are more sensible, sensitive, and ultimately rather temperamental. Writers are people full of opinions and pointers, even when people don’t care to hear what they have to say. That’s part of the writing business, but remember for every subject there is a recipient—if there is more than one, the writer is lucky and somewhat gifted. Now, let’s be careful with the word “gifted.” A gifted person can’t be measured for his or her success. On the contrary, most of the gifted people, specially in previous centuries, were unknown, or excelled after a lot of trial and error. That’s how life works, nothing to it.
Take note: When I use the word “writer, I’m not including the technical writers who write persuasive sentences and phrases for a commercial, propaganda, or any other kind of business idea. Those writers are set apart from novelists, storytellers, poets, etc—though they too must find some sort of inspiration around them—in order to get their thoughts out. Thus their work must not be diminished under any circumstance since it’s still difficult to come up with amusing words.
What sets them apart from literature writers, is the intention. Literature writers are interested in a peoples’ mind and heart, but as sad as it may be, technical writers tend to be more excited about the amount of money they can make. So in this matter the idea behind is to challenge a particular audience for which a product has been created. Of course, this is like working with clay: It doesn’t matter how beautifully the pot comes out IF the design tends to confuse us. We could think of this like a compound sentence without an independent clause. These sentences won’t make any sense by themselves unless an independent sentence is included. By doing this we shall avoid any possible threat to the meaning of this compound thought. The writer represents the independent clause, but the reader becomes the dependent clause. The reader needs to understand the idea behind the writer’s words, at least to a certain extend.
It’s true that time changes, and keeps changing. The 2000s aren’t the 1960s, though we insist in repeating what used to take place during those years. Our time has two modes: Melancholic and harsh. Many words are said to be finished by those listening to us. Times’ inclinations influence writers of every kind because writers like any other person can’t escape the reality that’s out there. It doesn’t matter how sweet or bitter it may seem. An idealistic perception is to write about known experiences, at times adding to it to light reality’s weight and obscurity. Before the XX century writers and musicians were less harsh and a bit more sympathetic, TODAY writers compete to see who’s the most educated JERK. Of course, we still have plenty of tasteful writers and musicians who keep penning and typing multicolor words. These types of cheerful writers aren’t so common or easy to find.
The Dead Poet’s Society
Some of you, if not all of you, may remember the movie Dead Poet’s Society. Isn’t it a m-o-v-i-e? I would say that it’s an honest movie. Dead Poet’s Society touches many subjects; it moves our inner being in an unspeakable manner. A group of rascally teens wonder about some mysterious and prohibited meetings which took place in their school. They try to revive those meetings, though they don’t know how to do it because of the lack of information. They imagine and try to find the substance of those former meetings. The more they imagine and understand how the former students used to develop their gatherings the more involved they get with the procedure and with one another. Where are today’s poets? Are they really dead? Let’s put it this way that’s “… the road less traveled …” These words should be like the writers’ universal constitution. Robert Frost understood the point of what a writer must have and give up in order to become a true writer.
The reader must not feel guilty when a writer’s words don’t seem to get one’s attention. Some things are meant to be read twice, thrice, and so on. It could be because of the level’s difficulty, or simply because you aren’t interested as you or someone else thinks you ought to be. Let’s think of a so-called difficult, redundant, and extravagant writer like the Spaniard Mr. Luis de Góngora who wasn’t understood too well and even disliked a lot because some other writers of his time couldn’t understand what he meant most of the time. By the way, I encourage you to read Góngora, and check him out for yourself rather than getting biased ideas because of what some “educated” readers think of him. I enjoy most of Mr. Góngora’s writings, but certainly get delighted by “Da bienes Fortuna” and “De la brevedad engañosa de la vida.” Let’s translate those two titles: “The possessions of Fortunate.” One of the repetitive phrases of this poem is, “Cuando pitos, flautas, cuando flautas, pitos.” That’s the essence of this poem, so I have told you the believed secret of this poem. The second title which I previously mentioned, was “The Short-lived Falsehood of Life.” Why not, let’s include a tiny portion of this second poem, its essence. ” … que presurosa corre, que secreta a su fin nuestra edad … cada sol repetido es un cometa …”
“Cuando pitos, flautas, cuando flautas, pitos.” These phrases indicate fortune’s caprices. “Que presurosa corre, que secreta a su fin nuestra edad … cada sol repetido es un cometa.” Once again irony sets its path, in an indescribable manner to the point that we can’t comprehend time’s, our time, vulnerability. This tells us that life indeed is unprotected. It doesn’t matter how hard we try to stay on top of it. Life comes around until it squares us and puts away our visibility until we become less unknown—to what remains from what used to be our existence. This may had been Góngora’s point of view, but isn’t it ours as well as his? Most of us would agree that it depends on the when, where, and how besides the with who. Life’s expectations change from day-to-day, if not by the minute. Is it natural? You bet!
What’s a writer? I can’t help it, but this makes me think of Saint-Exupéry, a physical and a virtual traveler. It’s almost impossible to write without a charming imagination; of course, this may be debatable, though I doubt it. One of the best examples of Saint-Exupéry’s writings is “Le Petit Prince.” I read that petit book when I was eight years old. Nowadays you will have to multiply the same number three times as well as my reading understanding on that short story.
My perception about “Le Petit Prince” has changed because hopefully I have matured some, not just in age but in gray matter. I have traveled and have seen different sides and sizes of the world, including the most important part of it, its peoples (the black, the white, the tan, the yellow, and you name it).
A writer lives without frontiers—the ones set in the mind and the ones dividing one nation from another. A writer observes more than a lot his or her surroundings, plays with reality until it speaks back to the writer and to the reader. Watch out: The paper or the screen say different things to the writer and to the reader as if the elements of any given theme move in different directions. Most of the time there isn’t a wrong answer unless when one goes way off-line. That happens when one tries to find what hasn’t lost. Funny, isn’t it? Almost.
The Kindness of a Writer
A writer is gentle by nature, but determined like a hungry lion in front of sizable piece of meat. Be cautious when dealing with a writer because everything you do or say, is important and treatable. For a writer everything and everybody have meaning and potential. Whatever you may consider or overlook, may excite a writer to the maximum. There is not need to ask the why of this perhaps abnormal ability because the answers vary from one writer to the next. It has to do with the writer’s interests like everything else in life.
For instance, when people talk to me, write me an e-mail, snail letter, or leave me a note somewhere—I tend to listen and to read in a three-dimensional fashion the other person’s words. I hunt possible articles for Go Inside Magazine almost unconsciously. My husband considers that to engage in a conversation with me may lead me to write something about it. We could say that he watches quite a lot what he says and leaves unsaid. What do I have to say about that? He’s right, but I can’t help it. This would be like trying to stop a tornado with a finger. Have you tried such thing? Hopefully, you haven’t; otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this article—at least from this world’s stage.
A writer can’t stop to jump from bed because the right words have been born while trying to get some sleep. At times one is driving, and the thought for a fine sentence pops like some corn in a microwave. There have been times when I have to stop just to write what I have in mind, needless to say that sometimes I have arrived ALMOST late wherever I’m expected. People wouldn’t believe how many times my writing has caused me to sleep three or four hours for a whole week because of a story, an article, or a poem that refuses to wait decent hours. Hey, as long as Do gets Done, things look better than fine—from cooler to coolest.
An important fact must be to separate the writer from the person that he or she is, in the deepest condition of a human being who like you tries to do more than to survive. That’s one of the tricks as if there is one, survival. This could make a writer a little apprehensive, but only if the writing takes a shape and a life of its own. If that happens, the writer finds the self fighting with itself. Something or someone has to give up something. Would the writer give up an idea because of it abstractness? I don’t think so; in the end, the writer must mold the words until desirable sentences are born.
Writers love risks, therefore adventures. That’s why writers lack frontiers like the horizon’s line between the ocean and the sky, both likely blue but different and endless. When one reads a book and feels as if a mental trip has been taken, one has gained what the writer wants us to feel and perhaps to understand. It fascinates me when I read people like the regional writer of Venezuela, Romulo Gallegos, because I can practically feel and taste the Orinoco River that he mentions in Doña Barbara which by the way in a very “sweet” way may be considered barbarous. Even her name implicates some sort of mystery from beginning to end, Rómulo Gallegos goes from the common situations to the most amusing situations in this novel. Yet he keeps us on track, giving us a tangible sense of one of the many realities of Latin America, in specific Venezuela since that’s where this novel takes place.
The Colombian Gabriel García Márquez is another Latin American writer, pretty famous for comprehending Latin America’s most naked essence in politics, religion, rural life, and even that almost unexplained respect for Europeans and North Americans. He debates so many subjects about Latin America, but without giving things and people names. Yet he tries to let us be the judges. It amazes me to read his books and see how little of his opinion is there. He tries to stick to the facts, but uses his acerbic sense of humor to make the intolerable a bit more admissible, if only in his writings. He is a writer that has changed according to Latin America’s growth. That’s a good tip to keep one’s writing alive; otherwise, it would be like reading the same story again and again as if characters die and resurrect from one book to the next. He avoids being so predictable, but has his own trademark, nothing wrong with that as long as the writer keeps it fresh and refreshing.
When I work with clay or some sort of rock for my sculptures, I can feel and hear the shapeless form becoming something that I have in mind. When it becomes that specific shape that I have pictured in my inside, I feel as if we have become friends. It speaks to me, but I’m sure that what it says to me, isn’t what it says to someone else. I have felt in my hands what I have created, feeling like a god—the creator of all. If this happens with one’s writing, this is a miracle because words don’t forget as easily as the plastic art does.
I must say that a writer is the one that confronts words like a bull fighter confronts the steamy horns of an inflexible bull. The difference is that the writer isn’t trying to kill what’s alive. The writer tries to revive what has been hurt, takes care of it with much tenderness and determination. Words mean nothing until they give birth something, whatever that may be. Be aware: A writer’s block isn’t against an imaginary wall, but against chastity’s bitter sword.
There are many writers out there, somewhere in this space, but true writers are like the fingers of our hands. You can count them without much trouble. You don’t have to be a Math expert to get the right result. We have a lot of trouble talking about sex and nakedness, but a good writer lives with the heart wide-open. Writers live naked to feel life’s changes without reservations. To write is a self talk on paper, and it becomes a dialogue when we actively participate without reservations as writers do.
To write isn’t an easy task, but it refreshes one’s mind, one’s spirit. The one who reads the most, is never alone. The one who writes the most, is always pondering with an inexplicable fully charged energy and mindfully traveling at all distances. Thanks for your sweet attention and I hope your hunger has been satiated if only for a moment.