As Tropical Storm Lee bears down upon my community, I paused to reflect --
Yesterday as we went about our daily lives :
An innocent man was lynched in a country whose name most of us can't spell.
An impressionable baby was born to a hateful mother.
Three young men were killed by sniper fire.
A hungry old woman opened a can of dog food to eat for her one meal of the day.
And we passed a lonely, hopeless soul, looking for one pair of eyes that gave a damn.
There is empty ground in most souls we pass. Sometimes that leeched soil is within our own soul. We cannot save the world.
Often it is beyond us to even save ourselves.
That which we can do, we must do, or else we help the darkness grow thicker.
Even one feeble candle can show the way for the next step. And what does this have to do with writing you ask.
We cast out our words into the darkness of the cyber-void.
We do not know who stops by our blogs, weary of spirit, drained of hope. We do know that tragedy and heartbreak is an everyday event. We know how to write.
Let us build up not tear down. Write to support, to strengthen, to lessen the load of the unknown reader in the shadows.
Maybe even to make lips that had forgotten how to smile break into a laugh, weak but the more needed because of that.
There is war. There is pestilence. There is famine. But none of them prepare you for someone moaning over trifles. Yet, on the other hand, no one enjoys having their mountain made into a mole hill by a spectator safe on the sidelines.
What did Mark Twain write?
"Nothing that grieves us can be called little. By the eternal law of proportion, a child's loss of a beloved doll and a king's loss of his crown are events of the same size."
Billy Graham once wrote : "Puppy love is real to the puppy."
Compassion. Understanding. Laughter. I try to make them my three writing companions.
And when we write our novels, we need to always keep in mind the living person who will read our words.
Is our story one that touches the heart? Is it real? Even in fantasy, our characters can seem real if their pain is common to our own : alienation, loneliness, yearning for love.
And keep in mind to always include laughter.
After seriously commenting on his strict requirements for perspective hosts, Mark Twain added with a twinkle in his writer's eye :
"When I am ill-natured, which is rare for the paragon of virtue that I am, I so enjoy the freedom of a hotel -
where I can ring up a domestic and give him a quarter. And then commense to break furniture over him. Whereupon I go to bed calmed and sleep as peacefully as a child."
And it is comforting that even a genius like Mark Twain was once thrown out of the office of a publisher.
"I got into his office by mistake. He thought I wanted to purchase one of his books, not the other way around. His lips contracted so fast his teeth fell out. And he threw me out."
Twenty-five years later that publisher met Twain on the street and profusely apologized : "I stand without competitor as the prize ass of the 19th century."
Mark Twain remembers the event this way :
"It was a most handsome apology, and I told him so. I then confided that several times each year since that time I mused over that incident and had in fancy taken his life, always in new and in increasingly cruel, inhuman ways --
but henceforth, I would hold him my true and valued friend -- and I promised never to kill him again -- in fancy or in fact."
Mark Twain had his own take on publishers from his long association with them :
"All publishers are Columbuses. The successful author is their America. The truth that they --
like Columbus --
didn't discover what they expected to discover, didn't discover what they set out to discover, doesn't trouble them in the least."
And so I leave you with yet another song by Thea Gilmore, accompanied by Joan Baez :
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