There’s scene in the 1994 version of “Little Women” in which Wynona Ryder, as Jo, sits down to write the book that will become all the events we’ve seen. We hear previous dialogue from the film, and her pen flies across the paper.
After a lot of these snippets of dialogue—and many shots of Wynona Ryder writing—we see that it’s dawn; apparently, she wrote the entire novel in an evening. She puts her hands to her chest, and lays a rose on her manuscript as the music swells.
I wish it were like that for me.
Ray Bradbury said that writers do what they do in fevers, passionately putting their words on the page or screen.
Most of the time—okay, just about all of the time—I do not write this way. I sit down, look at my computer, move my fingers, and form words. I do this many times.
It often doesn’t feel like I’m doing a whole lot. The words march across my screen, and when enough of them have formed a sentence, I put a period after it, and begin another. Eventually, these words form paragraphs, and you know the rest.
I continue to be amazed at the disconnect between the way it feels to write this stuff, and the effect that it can have on other people. Yesterday, I wrote something where I did not feel passion or fevers or any of those things; I simply felt the need to write an essay. I did so.
Then two friends of mine, Avery and Joe (you can read Avery’s blog here and Joe’s blog here, and you should), told me that they got a clear glimpse into my heart (figuratively) from that essay. This floored me, because the whole essay was about how I didn’t feel as if my heart was engaged in the essay at all. All it felt as if I had, as I wrote in yesterday’s essay, was my mind, which was just figuring out what word would go next.
This once again got me to thinking how there’s a disconnect between the feelings we have when we do something, and the effect that they have on others. Sometimes we put a great deal of feeling into words and gestures, and no one notices them. Yet just as often, that cutting comment that took no effort whatsoever can hurt someone for the rest of their life, while that kind comment that we forget almost as soon as we speak it ends up being something that a person cherishes forever.
My writing, it would seem, works that way as well. Sometimes I do indeed write something where I’m feeling boatloads of passion, yet the final product is something where people read it and say “yeah…that was nice.” Meanwhile, apparently, things that I write where they felt like a quick trifle that I dashed off with no monumental feeling whatsoever end up having a big impact.
We affect the world a lot more than we think we’re affecting it. So many times, when we say or do things that have, or at least seem to have, no passion or feeling behind them, they can have a huge impact. Given this, I think a lot more about the things that I say to people and do for them, and the effect that those things can have.
My life, like my writing, is just not something that I do in a passionate fever most of the time. Yet even if the feeling isn’t there in vivid relief, it is good to remember that my life affects the life of others. And considering that kind, positive words and gestures, even without much effort or feeling behind them, seem to have such an impact, I guess I’ll just continue to be, what I hope, is a nice guy who writes things that are apparently worth reading.