mark (yes the “m” is lower case) Stratton is a poet/writer who abides in Columbia, Missouri with his wife and three cats and a houseful of books and empty notebooks. His poetry has appeared in Four and Twenty, MediaVirus Magazine and the inaugural issue of The American Zig-Zag (Volume 1) He blogs at Aggaspletch, tweets on The Twittah, and his poetry collection ‘Tender Mercies’ is available on his web site, or your local bookstore via special order. He likes pie.

The following is the quote mark has chosen for discussion…

“Success comes to a writer, as a rule, so gradually that it is always
something of a shock to him to look back and realize the heights to which
he has climbed.”

— P. G. Wodehouse

This morning, upon waking up and hearing the train whistle of the local short-line, I glanced out the window. The train took my attention away from the blather on the sports talk on the radio and added a touch of melancholy to the sight of blue sky glimpsed through naked branches. That’s the view out of the bedroom window most mornings. It tends to stop my thoughts in their tracks as I pause for a moment and marvel at God’s beauty, no matter the conditions.

Turning from the window, I spotted one of my old writing notebooks. I keep them around but seldom look back at them. I tell myself it is not moving forward but the truth is, the writing in them makes me cringe somewhat. Not that it’s bad, but that it is raw.

As I’ve learned more about the craft of writing, I’ve come to realize that the process of writing is every bit as important as what I have to say. Because if I don’t pay attention to the craft of writing and only focus on the message or thought then the chance of losing the message in a flurry of words or cleverness is greater. Otherwise, it isn’t communicating, it’s writing. Not many people want to read writing, they’re interested in stories, news, essays, poetry, etc., which is the product of writing.

The craft should never jump out front and center, but should linger in the background. As you progress in your writing, you’ll notice this sort of change taking place. Especially if you’re not afraid to fail, and to fail spectacularly, then you learn from your mistakes. This is the takeaway I have from both the quote and from looking at that stray notebook I glanced through. Random words and ideas that were the dreaded ‘good idea at the time’ that needed to find life and a quick turn of the page for me to “see” that what sounded good in my head didn’t work on paper. It’s a learning process, writing and writing and process and more writing.

And then, one day, when the sun is shining through the window and dust motes draw your attention to an old notebook and you realize that while the contents weren’t all great, there was some good words and work in there. You see growth and those heights Wodehouse speaks of.

In closing, I call another quote to mind. The late Jimmy V said weeks before he died of cancer, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” Keep writing, stretching, trying crazy and wonderful ideas. Fail and do so with glory and reckless abandon, then learn from it.

● Do you carry a notebook to jot down ideas or to flesh them out before committing them to keyboard?
● Do you go back and look at old material for either inspiration or to see your progress?
● How much of your “inner critic” do you ignore as being too harsh and/or lacking sufficient objectivity?
● When writing by hand, do you write with a pen or pencil? Why?

Thank you