On Writing

Who Is that Whispering in My Ear?

Remember Doctor Faustus’ angels? They’re identified simply. The Good Angel. The Bad Angel. Easy to distinguish and, though predictable (good and bad still quite recognizable in the late 16th century), impossible to ignore – the Angels whisper Truth and lies in Faustus’ ears. Every audience member knows that Faustus listens to the wrong Angel. Truth beckons. But lies are easier to believe.

Writers, if they’re honest, lie. (Don’t you love irony?) They deliver art, and invite us to believe that it’s reality. They create men, women, boys & girls, and convince us of their living, breathing humanity. They paint scenery so vivid we shiver in the winter wind stirring only our imaginations. They bring ideas that spark revolution. They bring love, intrigue, revenge, hope. Writers, with their clever, crafty words show us that anything is possible. Pull a dust-covered, tattered volume from a neglected shelf, and discover the world. Read. You’ll find beauty, wisdom, purpose. Writers write to discover the same.

In the days and weeks to come, I will be writing. Too often, I fear, the ‘good words’ will remain elusive. As for sentences, I tend to beat those to death even under inspiration; lately, I’ve bludgeoned them into an unrecognizable pulp.  I begin to suspect a ‘bad angel’ has stolen the good words, and I have been left to scrabble through the refuse while she laughs at my ineptitude. American writer Mary Gordon puts it this way: “It’s a bad business, this writing. No marks on paper can ever measure up to the word’s music in the mind, to the purity of the image before its ambush by language.”

Yes. Still…

I hear a whisper in my writer’s ear. Good? Bad? The words on the page will tell…


2 thoughts on “Who Is that Whispering in My Ear?

  1. Well put. I’ve read somewhere that good writers must “lie as if it were truth and tell the truth as if it were a lie”. Of course, it was a writer who wrote that, so I don’t know if I can believe him.

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