I’ve found myself in a motivated state lately, and as such, I’ve turned back toward the written word. A passion of mine has always been writing, and though I have long bemoaned my lack of skill, others have assured me that they find my words enjoyable. As far as reading goes, it has always proven to be a love/hate relationship… when I find myself interested in the material, I can’t tear away from it, but getting to that interested point takes some effort and with some authors, never comes at all. I’m looking at you, Dickens, dry bane of my tenth grade education, ensuring English class was always The Worst Of Times.
While classical literature was never my “thing”, I have come upon a brand of it that I have found remarkably easy to get into: American Renaissance Authors, Humorists and Essayists. As far removed as I am in interest with Victorian-era England (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle notwithstanding) or Revolution-era France, I find myself irrepressibly drawn to the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Washington Irving, Henry David Thoreau, and of course, Samuel Clemens.
I should note that I have had no higher-level instruction in any of these gentleman, nor of any literature at all. I am simply coming at this from the point of view of a 30-something high school graduate that loves a good yarn, so if my viewpoints on this seem naive to those with scholarly interest in these works, please forgive me.
The thing I find most intriguing about about the works of these authors is how around every corner, you’ll stumble upon a sentence dripping with literary gold. Something that is written so well that it causes you to stop in your tracks and stare at it, dumbfounded. To know that this one sentence not only expressed a thought so flawlessly, but it expressed it so completely that if you were to try and put form it using your own words, it would have taken many paragraphs to equal its power.
“Times grew worse and worse with Rip Van Winkle as years of matrimony rolled on; a tart temper never mellows with age, and a sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows keener with constant use.” – Washington Irving, Rip Van Winkle
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden
“The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child. The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature
It is fair to say that it is not just the words or the individual thoughts that these bring to mind, but also the entirety of the stories that I find amazing. I grew up, as many have, knowing the general notion of “Rip Van Winkle”. The way it was presented was almost a cautionary tale, certainly one of despair. It wasn’t until I read the story that I realized just how delightful it was – that the main character was a depressed man whose nature was at constant odds with the external world, until at the end, he found himself in a place where his nature was acceptable and forgiven.
I’ve also been reading quite a bit of modern books, too. Books that have long been on my radar, but have never hit my gaze until recently – Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential” springs to mind.
I just can’t overstate how important I find the written word. I have a difficult time enjoying the company of an individual that not only doesn’t practice reading, but adamantly refuses to do so. I find it nigh impossible to trust the word of any such individual. My experience with the people that shun the written word is that conversation is often bland, full of pap filler material, and in general, never well thought out and usually compromising to the integrity of the source.
Writing is a different beast, altogether. It is my interest in writing that led to this blog in the first place and it is this newfound motivation that has led to the blog’s recent revival. I have many story ideas stuck in my head and I’m eager to get them out into the world. Likewise, I have a great number of thoughts that I find tend to mellow and refine once I put them down on paper. Notions that hang above my head, directionless, find their star once I begin to clack away at my keyboard.
I really do hope to continue writing for this blog. Whether it is the cause or the symptom of a calmer state of being for myself, the fact remains – when I write, I enjoy who I am a great deal more.