Spending your words

Writers talk incessantly before they are born. They talk about their opinions and their dreams. They talk about others, things they’ve read and done. Worst of all, they talk about their stories.

Talk, talk, talk.

Talk is expensive

You do not have an infinite capacity for words. There are only so many words you can run through the wringer in the course of a day. So, how will you spend them?

Few people talk with a pen in their hands. Fewer still stop mid-sentence to write down something witty. No conversations of any value recover from that kind of interruption.

Then again, how many great conversations do you remember? Do they have titles? Do you recall how they influenced your life, your beliefs, your art?

Reading is better than talking

I’ll put a crappy book up against the best talkers in the world. 9 times out of 10 the book will win. Not everyone thinks this way of course, but I don’t care about everyone else. I’m talking to writers here not regular people.

Writers are introspective in a way few people can understand. Maybe monks on a mountaintop. Perhaps. But even the most dedicated adept is probably not creating entire universes in their head, populating it with people (all their hopes and dreams, etc), then wrapping the whole thing together with a story, plot, what have you.

But you can’t meditate on a story forever. You have to write it.

Thinking isn’t writing

The longer you hold the story in your mind, the weaker it will become. Sure, you may find that a story lying dormant for years still smolders when you poke at it. But when you really examine the idea, you’ll see that it is a single image or character is all that remains. If you haven’t written it down, the rest will be a blur.

Yet, as power of the story flows from the mind to the page, it loses power. Then there are editors and critics and a whole host of things taking their share. In the end, what’s left arrives in the hands of the reader, who swallows it whole.


Talk less. Read more. Write boatloads. 🙂

3 thoughts on “Spending your words

  1. I find talking about my stories helpful, but I can see how you might talk too much about them.

  2. I’m glad I happened upon this post, because it reminded me that some of the best prose and poetry I ever wrote (25+ years ago in college) was really more like recording the oral tradition of storytelling that I learned at my Grandfather’s knee. There is an artistry in telling stories out loud that develops a writer’s distinctive and individual voice like nothing else; and tales told over and over again become finely tuned vehicles that encapsulate and convey a distilled essence. Perhaps skilled speech isn’t the same as “talk,” and I do read more than any of my personal acquaintances, but I’ve experienced the negative effect of losing my “voice” by reading too many other “voices” along with too much material in a genre anathema to the style I want to resume. I see now I need to revere my oral storytelling skills and let them guide my creative process. Thanks for helping me achieve this breakthrough. Faerie blessings.

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