Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Are We Ever Good Enough?

I was talking to a friend this past weekend, and he showed me something he wrote on his experience at the Burning Man Festival. I was in awe with both his genuine style, details and the experience itself. Definitely made me want to go.

Then he said something to me that made me ponder: "I don't feel like I did a good job writing it. There were just so many things I wanted to say, so many experiences I wanted to share, and so many feelings that I can't find words to describe. I feel very frustrated."

Trust me, my buddy, my pal. I know that frustration.

I think that's the writer's curse. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try and how well we write, we still can't convey to others all that is in our minds, hearts and souls. We can't help but feel handicapped, impotent, or inadequate. We so desire to express ourselves, but somehow we feel that our thoughts and experiences get lost in translation.

But this is what I told my friend:

It's okay.

It's not our job, I think, as writers to brain dump everything to other people. We are communicators, not engineers or data processors. What we are doing here is to lead and help other people to experience and feel what we, as humans, do.

Our lives here is to experience life, and a lot of times, it's okay to keep these experiences to ourselves. We don't have to share everything, and there's no need for others to "get it" completely.

There are two sides of this literary coin.

On one side is the writer. Writers experience life, and indulge themselves in all kinds of thoughts, emotions and experiences. We could experience these things through our imaginations, or actual, physical, mental or spiritual journeys. Then we communicate -- we build a window, so people from the other side can get a glimpse of what we've just experienced.

On the other side is the reader. Through the writers, the readers get to experience these thoughts, emotions and experiences, and if they're lucky, they get to go on these journeys as well.

A writer must remember that it's impossible for a reader to ever experience everything a writer does. Impossible. And that's okay. The idea is not that a writer must be able to share everything with the reader. The idea is that the writer helps the readers on that path of that discovery. Give them a glimpse and a taste of what is possible, stir their imagination and their soul. If only just a little.

I told my friend: As much as you think you've failed to express every thought and share every experience, you have succeeded in bringing me into your world and I appreciate that you let me take a glimpse and experience even just a small part of what you did and went through. What is important is that you have allowed me to walk next to you and see what is possible. You've succeeded in stirring my curiosity and my senses -- and suddenly I am there, through my own imagination and my own filters and experiences. You've allowed me to create my own reality. After reading your writing, I want to go there and experience it, first hand. And that is power. The power of provocation and evocation. The power of ideas. The power of imagination.

And that's the power we should cherish as writers.

6 comments:

Mridu said...

Thanks for this entry, Ray. Like your friend I've been having this nagging feeling lately that I'm unable to convey EXACTLY what I'm feeling. But you've made me see that it's okay, and sometimes, even good, if writers don't overburden their readers all at once. Thank you!

Ray Wong said...

Mridu, thanks! All writers have that doubt or frustration, that we can't seem to convey exactly what we're feeling or experiencing and the fear that our readers just won't get us. But as another friend of mine said, if we could reach just ONE person, just one, we've already done well...

Keep smiling.

Jill said...

Can you come hover over me like a little writing angel for all those times I need to remember what you've written? Great post, Ray. Thanks for sharing.

Ray Wong said...

I'll always hover over your shoulder. And you can also bookmark this post. ;) XO

Joanne D. Kiggins said...

Powerful words, Ray. And oh so true! What a wonderful way to remind others to stop and smell the roses that do flourish from our writing.

Ray Wong said...

Thanks, Joanne. I think sometimes we do forget. It's good to remind ourselves not everything has to be perfect. The important thing is we try our best.