Show & Tell: The Writer's Job

Show & Tell: The Writer's Job

November 12, 2014

I keep feeling like I need to tell you something.

I keep feeling like I need to tell you something—that my job when I sit down to craft this at the end of a full Tuesday (after trying last Tuesday and that disastrous attempt on Thursday) is to tell you something about the world we share.

Of course it should be insightful. Really insightful. Because we’re all busy. Really busy. Who has time for watered-down wisdom?

And it should be musical. Of course, really lyrical. Because we’re all busy. Really busy. And who has time for lackluster prose? (I don’t. Even to make a point, I can barely resist striking “watered-down wisdom.” Pretty terrible, isn’t it?)

I keep feeling like I need to tell you something—that my job is telling. But then I get angry. Because telling work means I’m doing all the work; and, you’re getting all the goods. Why, then, should I have to harvest all the insight? Why should I be the only one tending its rise, punching it down, letting it proof? Why, then, should you get to eat this slice of culture—without sharing any jam from your kitchen?

So I must be wrong. Actually, I know I’m wrong—it’s not my job to tell you something.

I know this because I met a prophet yesterday who told me so. His name is Walter (no, he’s not a dog—or a donkey for that matter) and he came into my backyard yesterday and said it right into my ear.

I’d just had my eyes dilated, so I wasn’t seeing very clearly. They were closed, actually. With my pupils so far open, I couldn’t read (screens were far too violent); the light was too bright for clarity. All reflection was overwhelming. But I sat outside with shades over my closed eyelids because the sun felt amazing.

But I know what I heard. Crisp as an apple, Walter’s voice said, “Dwell with the images.” He whispered that prophets are poets (and vice versa), that images have transformative power because elusive language, unlike telling language, refuses to be reduced to a formula.

Judgment didn’t seem to bother him. He kept laughing. It seemed like a good thing. Like a really good thing.

I wasn’t sure what to do. Walter wouldn’t stay, and I couldn’t get him to answer my questions. I couldn’t write anything down, I couldn’t make anything—I couldn’t see.

All I could do was turn my face to the autumn sky, bless the clouds, and let the squirrels chase after the wind.



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