Great writers

by cheri block

Writing is a disciplined extension of  random brain activity, put to paper or computer screen so that others might know our thoughts in a clear and understandable way.

Writing is one of the most difficult of activities that we humans have in our communication toolbox.

While writing can be taught to all students, great writers are born, seeing the world and its events in a Technicolor beyond the rules of the rainbow. Such writers often walk outside the lines, cheat in hopscotch, and resent the rules of punctuation. Funny, though. If asked, they know each and every rule.

Most great writers have odd senses of humor, sometimes taking themselves so seriously that they miss the joke. They can be sarcastic and, at times, bitter. That bitterness is sweetened by a compliment. In fact, a good compliment changes everything for a great writer.

In other words, great writers are sensitive to criticism, but they mask this sensitivity with wit. Great writers are witty and appreciate wit in others’ speech or writing. Wit is a coveted communication skill, often bestowed upon those who might be teased by oversized mesomorphs.

Great writers are not the same as great poets. Great poets get to be obscure (if they choose).

Great writers cannot get off so easily. Clarity is of utmost importance. Panache helps. Great writers know that using three prepositional phrases in a row is a no-no. Such expression is reserved for lyricists.

Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house, we go.

Great writers are often either terribly insecure or terribly secure. Rarely is a great writer a normal person. Whatever normal means.

One of the nicest times of the day for a writer occurs late at night or early in the morning when activity is reserved for barn owl and skunk-types. Rooting around in the soft dark dirt, exploring tunnels and warrens where shallow and deep thoughts lie, typing and retyping until the brain activity disciplines itself into directed clarity–these daily doings are the stuff of great writers.

Great writers do not use the word stuff.    

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About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
This entry was posted in Writing and Teaching and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Great writers

  1. Cheri says:

    I saw you cheat in Hopscotch, young man.

  2. Hmmmm! I don’t have to worry. I am pretty normal, and I have all my stuff in order. Nevertheless, very interesting.

  3. Richard says:

    You write of yourself, Cheri, though you don’t realise it.

    Somehow you discover a unity in all things and knead it it into words of rounded perfection. It is more than technique. It is the sort of person you are.

    Thank you for spreading joy and understanding.

    • Cheri says:

      Oh Richard, for Pete’s sake! That’s why I used the word stuff at the end of the piece. I am a decent writer, not a great writer. If I were, I’d be able to put a book together, which I can’t seem to do. 😦

      Did you see the movie Midnight in Paris? I was thinking of some of those guys: Fitzgerald, Anderson, Hemingway. A lovely movie!

      And on a wholly different note, please see The Guard, an Irish black comedy.

      • Richard says:

        I’ve read reviews and watched the trailers.

        Another world!

        I think I’ll pay a visit. 🙂

      • Richard says:

        … We are such stuff
        As dreams are made on; and our little life
        Is rounded with a sleep.

      • Oh, Cheri, I must tell you that I think you are a fabulous writer and this was another wonderful blog entry. I think putting together a book is just a different kind of commitment. May we play with that possibility for a minute?

        If you were to write a book would it be fiction or nonfiction?

        You know, when an author begins to entertain that thought of writing a book, half the book is already written. Seriously.

        Another question, have you read Julia Cameron’s The Right To Write? OMG, please do.

        Your missing friend, who took on too much these last 3 months.
        MJ

  4. dafna says:

    oy! thomas stole my line.

    I will have my young man Jacob read this blog entry, perhaps he will learn something. According to your description he has the personality traits of a great writer.

    Have fun in Montreal!

  5. Cheri says:

    Hi dafna,
    Mothers usually know their sons well, so yes…show him this entry and see if he is motivated to write. Writers usually don’t need assignments; they write because it is part of them.
    I am picking up my repaired little Canon 95 tomorrow am, just in time for my trip. Carrying a little camera will save my shoulders but the close ups won’t be as plentiful.
    Sure…I will post some photos for sure. Not leaving for some days though.

  6. Cyberquill says:

    Writing is one of the most difficult activities in the human communication toolbox? Yeah, except for all the other activities in that box.

    • Cheri says:

      More difficult than pantomime?

      • Cyberquill says:

        Depends if you ask a writer or a mime. Artists have a tendency to describe their own respective art forms as the most “original,” most honest, and hence difficult to master without “cheating” or resorting to showy gimmicks.

        The actor will say acting is harder than singing, because the singer has the music to provide emotional support and help him get “into” the mood. The singer will say singing is more difficult, because the singer has to be ready to rock on the beat, whereas the actor can take his time.

        Then the dancer comes along and claims that dancing is most difficult, for a dancer has no words to help him and hence must express everything with his body. Then the mime comes along and says pantomime is more difficult, for he has neither words nor music to help his expression.

        The writer, of course, will insist that writing is most difficult, for he has neither body nor voice to help out; only ink. The painter will say painting is tougher, for he doesn’t have words. The writer will come back and point out that painting pictures with words only is a lot harder than with brush and paint.

        And so on and so forth. It never ends. I’ve concluded a long time ago that there’s no point in debating which form of expression towers above all others in any way whatsoever. The discussion always ends in a fist fight. Always.

  7. Cheri says:

    Hi MJ!
    I am so thrilled to hear from you, really. I was thinking about you recently and hoping all was well.
    I have not read The Right to Writebut will pick up a copy.
    My book…my book…My husband keeps encouraging me to sit down and really write it so he can quit work and play with his tractor, gator, truck, and olive orchard.
    My story I have been thinking of for one year. It’s historical fiction with some mysticism. It concerns several white horses: one in England that exists today and one other from Normandy in 1066. It has a female heroine and several powerful but ruthless men.

    Did I tell you I finally sold my business? So, I am retired (except for my Masters Program which will take me several more years to complete.)

    It’s amazing what I am enjoying doing. Can I admit that I don’t mind folding laundry now? How about grocery shopping? Picking my husband’s shirts up at the cleaners? All of these “chores” I am doing. Just like my post “Washing Rice.”

    Are you still writing? I have your website in my Google Reader but the feeds don’t come in.

  8. Cheri!

    Congratulations on selling your business, that’s fabulous but tell me, how does one sell charm, creativity and all those hats in one fell swoop?

    Oh, your story has such an opportunity for your animus to express himself never mind that beautiful and wild heroine.

    I’m not sure about those chores; my Hestia went on strike some years back.

    Yes, still writing http://huff.to/nrmsG3 and have signed up for another art in film course and another course about Parisian fashion. I realized all work and no play made my inner child cranky. Well, that’s what St. Richard said but the Princess and the Pea? She just smiled and got out of emptying the dishwasher one more time.

  9. Cheri says:

    Your classes sound wonderful. Those women in Paris–no matter what their ages–know how to dress. If there was one image that I took away from Paris, it was women my age moving down the cobblestones in heels and outfits adorned by scarves of every color.

    Our inner children would be simpatico.

    Let me know when you are in the Bay Area. We’ll go to lunch in S.F.!

  10. Richard says:

    “Writing is a disciplined extension of random brain activity…”

    Is that a disciplined extension of random brain activity?
    Is there no inherent order?

  11. Cheri says:

    My sense, Richard, is that brain activity is a series of synapses that fire around a thought, drawing upon stimuli from the many layers of life in the brain. Then, based on the need to be logical and ordered–say in a legal brief or a scholarly essay– we are able with varying degrees of focus to sort and order that information.

  12. Richard says:

    “…we are able with varying degrees of focus to sort and order that information…”

    With our brains, presumably, Cheri? Or is the order already there?

  13. Cheri says:

    With our brains unless one is the Scarecrow.

  14. Richard says:

    So the brain isn’t random.
    a contradiction!
    Or a writer isn’t just her brain…
    … or just a pretty face, Dorothy

    • Cheri says:

      Oh my!
      So you found a weakness in my statement, counselor. A contradiction, eh? (Practicing my Canadian accent for upcoming trip to Quebec).

      I am full of contradictions and am usually set square in my place by the Judge.
      Lions and tigers and bears!! (Oh my!)

  15. Man of Roma says:

    I wonder if great writers have to face the situation I often find myself into recently: a totally blank brain in front of a totally blank page.

    When are you leaving for Quebec?

    A kiss of ‘bon voyage’ to Chaerie the faerie!

  16. Don says:

    If Lincoln never became a congressman and never ran for the Senate, would he have then had time to become a great writer? He was a brilliant, succinct, forward-looking communicator with an inventive mind.

    That is a bust of Lincoln, isn’t it?

  17. Cheri says:

    Hi Don,
    Yes it is. We have this bust in our living room.
    The Judge admires Lincoln for all of the qualities you cite above and more.

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