Commentaries

A Writer’s Purpose

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One of the things I didn’t count on when I decided to publish my latest book, “Storm Over South Central” are the subjects in at least one of my stories have to be changed. Little did I know that something I wrote twenty seven years ago, (twenty eight by the time Storm is released) would serve as an issue that would ‘offend’ most people and cause unnecessary attention to what I believe will be an intelligent, well-written and positively received anthology.

When someone who closely identifies with a subject I wrote in one of my books watched a video of me repeating the offensive words, they instantly unfollowed me from one of my social media accounts. There was no conversation on why I wrote that subject in the poem between us, no discussion of conflicting viewpoints and matters, this person just unfollowed me, and so it goes. As I wrote in an earlier piece and if it wasn’t clear, this author will add it here: a writer’s job is to provoke deep reflection, thought and consciousness to the world we live in now, and what we believe should be. We are not cheerleaders for the status quo, we do not bend our viewpoints based on polls, peer pressure or in Serling’s case, nervous sponsors, we write because we believe our words have purpose, they have meaning and they should provoke each one of us to challenge what this world tells us. This is what a writer should be all about.

A writer writes for the masses to get a point across, hold up a proverbial palm in the air and state, “This isn’t right” or “There has to be a better way than this”. When a writer fails to use the gifts of metaphor, imagery or an array of literary devices at their disposal to see the best and worst of Man, then they have fallen short.

Social media has failed the writer, it has turned our gifts into a collection of hastily written, ill advised posts for the masses to dissect, devour and spit out. None of our words have impact, residence in an already crowded mind. Social media has given rise to writers who depend more on emotion rather than using their time wisely to deliver a deep intellectual impact to the mental heart. It has made fools and literary jesters of us all instead of the serious philosophers and scribes our gifts have chosen us to be. Social media has not only failed this generation of writers, it has spoiled and ruined the hearts of readers for who knows who long?

For example, social media has been responsible for writers to bow down to societal peer pressure and an insatiable appetite for acceptance among the public. Gone are the days when a writer could sit down, work on a challenging story or play only to find the numerous, faceless ‘critics’ lying in wait to vehemently discredit the writer’s project. At the same time, these same critics are busy demonstrating to the online world of their false credibility by the words they type and in the incorrect usage they display. For a writer in this new century and millennium, this is an era in which social media presents itself as an unstoppable, immovable foe of ignorance……for the moment.

Today’s writer should be encouraged in that there are audiences to be found in this world we live in. The internet has provided the writer with the ability to produce as many works as he or she can without interference. They have the power to self-publish their works or type them out on blogs such as this. Even with this advantage come challenges. Too much competition among writers, all seeking the same passionate crowds that hunger for their stories or non-fiction work. A writer must learn to adapt the word longevity if they plan to write for the long-term. Readers will always remember the one book you wrote, and then they forget. The current state of literature falsely encourages the writer of instant success, gratification. While a particular writer may seek to just write only one book, one article in a media publication just for the sake of an accomplishment, the biggest reward for writers who honestly enjoy the love of the art, will not be disappointed. Lonely as this road may be at times, as long as the writer understands his or her role in this world, not just for today, then they have the courage and conviction to express their hearts on the page, in the hopes others will follow.

Charles L. Chatmon
Authors N Focus
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Commentary: Solomon’s Sage Advice to Writers

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And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. – Ecclesiastes 12:12

Apparently the wisest man who ever lived, Solomon didn’t write this text with writers in mind, but it reveals an indisputable truth; too much research can tire you out. There is a vast source of information that goes on without end; the internet. Today, authors can sit at home and gather up all of the research they’ll ever need at their fingertips. There is an endless stream of advice, tips and more from trade magazine websites, other niche webpages that features authors and videos with helpful advice. While they are beneficial, they also become a burden spending hours at home looking up information for the writer’s next article or book. Too much research wears the writer down and robs them of their ideas or plans.

There are only twenty four hours in a day, if most of that time is spent doing research, the brain doesn’t have a chance to rest and reflect on the material the writer has absorbed into memory, creating a loss of productive energy that could have been better used in writing the manuscript. Writers should allow enough time by taking a break engaging in activities away from the house and internet. A weekly gym class, a walk in the park, attending movies and sporting events, traveling, all help the writer refocus on life. Time away from these distractions helps the writer feel like an individual once again, allowing them the mental space they need to continue working on their project.

What contributes to a loss of energy for writers? Feeling burdened by too many ‘rules’. Every trade or online website has examples of the routines of bestselling authors and their words of wisdom. One piece of advice leads to another in a different resource such as a social media timeline or trade magazine, then it adds up until the writer’s mind is confused on how to start their manuscript or how. They should keep in mind while bestselling authors have discovered what works for them, it may not be the same for the writer. There are no magical ‘rules’ one should adhere to except to stick with a writing process that has worked in the past. Each writer’s method to publication is different.

While it is important to be as accurate and to gather as many resources as possible,  writers should take time out to take a break. Not only will their minds be clear from distractions, but they’ll enjoy much needed time doing activities away from their work area. Solomon’s words even to this day are very wise and advice writers should take heed if they plan on taking care of the people who mean the most, themselves.

Charles L. Chatmon

Authors N Focus Extra

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Commentary: Words on Paper, Plain and Simple

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I say the same thing Ray Bradbury said. He said, “God bless you, write 52 stories a year.” Write. You write. That’s the only way. You keep writing and if you have any talent at all, which of course is a necessity, you will get better and better as you write. But you got to keep writing. You should not go to those classes or seminars or sit around some guru and talk literature. You’ll never get anywhere that way. It’s pleasant. It’s enjoyable, but the only thing a writing class has to offer is that you have to write. You should instill that in yourself. Be persistent and constantly write in whatever field that appeals to you most. You’ve got to keep writing. That’s the only answer. – Richard Matheson

I read this quote by the late great author Richard Matheson and it was an eye opener. You mean you don’t have to take any of the many Masters programs set in secluded, lush areas like forests or beachfronts just to learn the basics of writing? All you have to do is sit down and write? You can’t get better by sitting in a class listening to a contemporary author warning you that your plot devices aren’t up to par and your dialogue sucks? Yes, it is possible not to take a class for that. Writing or learning the art on how to is a very lucrative business these days.

This is a new year, and aspiring authors have a right to feel excited. This could finally be the year it all comes together, their first book published. They may consider spending hundreds of dollars to live it up on some resort while learning the ins and outs about the craft. If they took the time to understand what Mr. Matheson is saying, perhaps they’ll find out taking some time out of their day and writing is the best getaway of all.

If you open up any writing trade magazine today, you’ll see these excursions are well advertised and many all with the assurance the budding writer will learn something new from their participation. A class on sentence structure may be what they need to boost their confidence, motivate them to write that first book. As Matheson says, You should instill that in yourself. Be persistent and constantly write in whatever field that appeals to you most. Persistence pays off, it’s an asset for the author who wants to move from ‘aspiring’ to ‘published’.

Our busy workdays and twenty four/seven media frenzy world won’t allow us to have a break, a few hours of our time to ‘get better’. We are bombarded with more distractions than in the days of Matheson or Bradbury yet they should also motivate the aspiring author to dedicate a pocket of time to a hectic schedule.

What this all comes down to is having the will to write. Maybe a class on writing from a contemporary author might help, and these classes or courses are needed however, after the instructor has given the student all they need to know on how to improve their style, it still falls on the aspiring author to write. You have to wonder how many students have taken these writing courses over the years and wound up reaching their literary goals of publication and winding up on bestselling lists? Matheson is still advising us today, long after his passing that the best training a writer can receive is to just sit down, write and put words to paper. No one should expect a masterpiece on the first try, but the budding writer won’t get better if they’re not persistent and dedicates to perfecting their literary skills.

The follow up to Matheson’s answer from this interview is “You’ve got to have discipline.” Matheson tells the interviewer:

That is your discipline. If you have to force yourself to write every morning then maybe you’re in the wrong field. If you wake up with a song on your lips and rush to your typewriter, then you’re in the right field.

Persistence and discipline without looking as writing as a chore separates the good from the great authors. We can overburden the authors of this generation with rules and regulations not necessary for their development. If they took on the attitude that they should write as much as possible so they can gain confidence and get better, perhaps the craft wouldn’t be as troublesome to them. All of us who are writers should take Mr. Matheson’s words to heart and concentrate on simply putting our words down on paper.

Charles Chatmon

Authors N Focus Extra

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