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March 2, 2020: The Writer’s Responsibility

Outside, it’s snowing heavily, and the wind seems to be picking up. I can handle snow, wind, cold; I fear rain. If it begins to rain it is going to be a mess out there. I’ll have to put blankets back on the horses and feed them in the shelter. We’ll be trudging around, and clothes will get wet really fast.

The trails are now impassable, so the horses are on an abbreviated winter break. I will get them out once the plow goes by because otherwise, walking on the road will be a slog.

And so, in the meantime, Pete and I have been working on my Rasmuson proposal; the deadline for this grant being late

Books at Bright Lights Books sale
Books at Bright Lights Books sale

tonight. Our strengths complement one another. I, who am a creative writer, get the ideas down on the page in a readable form. And Pete, who is a technical writer, takes care of the formatting, copy editing, and if need be, photo insertion.

Right now, he’s tackling the more mundane stuff. Me, I’m now thinking hard about the composing process of writers. In finishing my part of this document, it occurred to me that a writer’s responsibility to her or her readers is to give the work in question their very best effort. In other words, don’t abandon it until you are convinced that it is the best thing you’ve ever done. Now the writer may feel differently after completing said work. However, that feeling of accomplishment that comes immediately after the fact is most important.

Yes, writers should keep raising the metaphorical bar. Being metaphorical, there is no height limitation. Up, up, and more up, until you are standing on a cloud and looking down. This is what we should all aspire to.

My experience with the Bright Lights Book Project has been revelatory in that I have now had hundreds of books in hand. And I have, often in an instant, had to determine if a given book is to be shredded or salvaged. This is a task that I continue to take quite seriously, for I am dealing with a document that the writer may have put some time and work into. The old golden rule thing then again rears its ugly head. Do unto others as you wish them to do unto you. I would, of course, appreciate it if someone else in my position took my book in hand and gave some serious thought as to what should be done with it.

The question I often ask myself, particularly when dealing with multiple books by a writer, is did they at least momentarily see their second and third books as being their best work? Or did they write what was published just to maintain writerly momentum? Quite often, I find myself thinking it was an instance of the latter, usually because the subject matter doesn’t keep my attention. Momentum is good, but quite often, this is what desk drawers are for.

Some writers have just one good book in them. I think that the literary world would be a better place if more would acknowledge this and then move on. Knitting and needlepoint are very honorable occupations. And like writers, those practicing these arts should continue to raise the bar high.

Next: 62. 3/3/20: A Conversation with Ryder and Tinni

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