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Monday, January 11, 2010

The Lifetime of Writing

The lines and creases we create on paper during our lives usually perish quickly. The fragility of the product used to facilitate our inky creations lends to its nature to tear or crumble. Most paper soon becomes nothing but trash -- letters, homework, documents, statements, books, magazines -- refuse that yellows and molds with age. The symbols of writing that occupy space on the stationery fade in the process. Most of us simply dispose of the ratty remains.

Finding its final destination in a landfill or in a natural setting, the fibrous pulp decomposes in a few months as Mother Nature claims the twisted heaps of words that fill any non-recycled paper. These graveyards of paper eventually turn to soil to begin a new natural life cycle.The end for ton after ton of dead communication is not memorialized although much if it had been painstakingly developed. We consider such disregard for the information fitting in that only a minuscule portion of the written word is vital to add to the bank of information significant for retaining and extending our levels of knowledge.

Putting our symbols on paper actually represents the cheapest expression of thought available. Costing next to nothing, anyone can freely afford to write the next great novel, manifesto, symphony, or speech. Writers spend endless hours attempting to create some marvel of expression that paints a uniquely textured self expression. While great writers are prolific craftsmen of words and phrases, most people spend their lives as novice laborers building common constructions with the written word. Writing the words requires little; however, freeing the words to form flowing streams of elegant comprehension demands significant style and intellectual investment.

For anyone who writes, considerable trash is an essential byproduct of drafting and revising. Discarded paper becomes a victim of the writing process. It's as if we must wade through the swamps of our initial murky ideas, grope our way through the uncharted paths of our many confusing thoughts, then step firmly on a single, solid piece of inventive firmament to rise toward fluency. Writing always involves discovery once the writer establishes a foothold. He leaves behind a wake of unused and inoperable conceptions and, unfortunately, a good deal of trashed paper.

One simple fact remains: for the average person, throwing away any original first drafting is simply painful. For the stingy writer, any writing, once captured on paper, becomes an object of prized propriety. Tossing it aside seems unthinkable, and writing a false start seems synonymous with failure. So, the stubborn inventor of weak first drafts assumes clarity is inherent and first thoughts are flawless. But, the wise writer, the one willing to let go of words and paper, believes in revision and soon learns that a revised product always unclogs vital pathways of communication.

I've often thought that the crafted "perfect" sentence or two adheres to the judgmental reader with the strength sufficient to raise the standard of an entire piece. Working on a thought leads to the greater formation of clarity in the intended idea. Sometimes writing a few of these well-constructed sentences takes revision after revision.

To produce even one page of paper filled with original writing that will remain for ages is a task most of us will never accomplish. In fact, almost none of us will publish a page of our writing. All of our written efforts will join the heaps of trash quietly decomposing in some dump. To think that our words will not survive is a pretty sobering thought. It speaks of the lack of impact personal thoughts will have on any future generation. As this thought humbles us, it also reassures us that our personal written production is largely unimportant in any universal terms.

Words on paper as a product of human knowledge will eventually require reinvention for limited survival. Even the most revered volumes of print will surely someday perish. The breath of human life in the symbols on these pages of great works is as fragile as the person who created the knowledge -- both are temporal and temporary.

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