There are many topics that I could write about today. Rolling through my head are headlines about the shameful and discriminatory immigration law just adopted in Arizona, the travesty of a US mother sending her adopted son back to Russia (by himself), and the possible relationship between global warming and Iceland’s unpronounceable volcano. I will bypass these and focus somewhat selfishly on a little quandary I have with my writing.
Last week I was rejected from the 2010 Colorado Voices program through the Denver Post. In this program writers from across the state are asked to submit several columns to the paper or its online counterpart throughout the calendar year. The guest commentary is unpaid but offers great opportunity for exposure for a writer and her cause(s), not to mention superior editing by Post staff. Along with the kindly rejection letter I received some helpful tips on how to improve my writing and possibly succeed to be a Voice in future years.
Though I seem to have lost this valuable letter (I just finished a desperate 15-minute search), I can remember the gist of it: be clear, be brief and be yourself. In the introductory letter do not issue a resume, but a quick summary of subjects you might cover. Be timely. Don’t take on too much. See? I learn quickly! Though I have never been accused of brevity or of wit, I can attempt improvement.
I need to improve my writing, because it appears to be an activity that I love. If I could help people by writing their stories, it would combine two of my greatest joys. Don’t think I’m running out to judge myself based on one rejection letter; actually, I felt the sting of my own criticism yesterday when I started a new book. It’s by a mom, one who shares many of my values and opinions. Her writing style reminds me of my own (though she is much better) and strangely, I found myself getting bogged down. I felt “preached to.” I am guessing that anyone who reads my entries could feel much the same.
Hope springs eternal, however, and my hope is bolstered by two things I read recently. One item was in the new book, The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You've Been Told About Genetics, Talent, and IQ Is Wrong by David Shenk. I read a few pages while I browsed in Barnes & Noble last week and discovered this gem by the author, “Intelligence and talent turn out to be about process, not about whether you were born with certain "gifts." It’s not a brand new idea, that persistence and hard work pay off, but to tie the word “genius” to persistence in adulthood (as opposed to operas and mathematical theorems issued by a child prodigy) seems a new and happy twist.
The other motivating factor I discovered in a great book by and about the legendary basketball coach, John Wooden, called (appropriately) Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections on and Off the Court by John Wooden and Steve Jamison. I read this last night as I struggled to keep my eyes open under the weight of the day: “Most of us are impatient. As we get a bit older, we think we know more and things should happen faster. But patience is a virtue in preparing for any task of significance. It takes time to create excellence. If it could be done quickly, more people would do it.” (p 191 – italics mine).
I have about as much patience as I have brevity or wit, but I’ll try to sharpen my voice and get it out there. The world is meant to be a great chorus, after all.