It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. That someone says something so profound. So true. That it’s your own truth. Even though you’ve never put the words together, you’ve known their meaning deeply for what seems all of your life. I can’t tell you anything about the interview with Mr. Thompson, except one question and his answer.
The interviewer, who sat off camera, asked the reporter/writer which he thought was easier writing or researching. Thompson, sitting on the back porch in what was his work area and speaking in a writer’s frugality with words, said without hesitation, “Researching is much easier, because no one can help you write.”
I’ve spent years working with young writers. I could coach them. I could say what wasn’t working. I could make suggestions on how to approach the problem. But at the end of the day, I couldn’t help them write. I had to stand back and watch them struggle.
A writer is a batter standing at home plate waiting for the pitch, a tennis player waiting for serve to come over the net. A coach can watch and report, but the coach can’t hit the ball. Comments marked in whatever color I choose are meaningless if a writer can’t interpret or internalize them. I can suggest technique, but I can’t teach heart. I can’t fix the writing. If I do, I become the writer.
It takes heart, soul, intuition, understanding, and flexibility to be a writer. It takes practice, persistence, and patience. It takes years. It takes an artistic ability to blend structure with expression in the way a composer brings notes together to move people to feeling. It takes years. Writing is hearing the music of the language and the nuance of how words come together to make meaning. Writing is talent teamed with trial and error. Writing is more than putting words on paper. It is experience and problem solving. It takes years to make a writer.
I wonder at how we have the same experience with so many things, yet we reach a faulty conclusion about writing. We drew in school, yet few of us say we are artists. We played ball, yet few of us say we are athletes. We did mathematics, yet few of us say we are mathematicians. Still so many of us say we are writers.
It’s no wonder that I am so aware of my differences.
I know that no one can help me write.
—me strauss Letting me be