• 64°

On Thursday, I was lucky enough to hear Leonard Pitts speak at Catawba College ó twice. After lunch, someone asked about which authors he liked to read. His response was not surprising to me ó he likes to read writers who make him feel jealous. I think all writers like to read things that make us think damn, I wish I could do that.
Writing that makes me feel completely inadequate ó like William Gay’s “The Long Home,” which I read recently ó makes for fine reading.
I won’t totally discount my own skills. I like to think (as A.J. Liebling did) that “I can write better than anybody who can write faster, and that I can write faster than anyone who can write better.”
I certainly write more effectively than I speak. My thoughts march in organized formation on the page but act like Larry, Curly and Moe when tumbling from my mouth. (I’m sorry, Mr. Pitts, for my halting, disjointed blathering after lunch when I got a chance to talk to you.)
One thing I’ve learned over the years: although writing may be an art for brilliant writers, for most of us, it’s a craft. That means if you’re attentive to what you’re doing and assemble the right tools and practice using them diligently, you can master the craft or at least become competent. If you let precise nouns and verbs do the heavy lifting, your prose will take on power. If you listen to the way your words sound, your prose will take on a musical grace. If you dare to be honest, your words will resonate.For me, the path to finding a writing style that suits me (and works for an audience) has not been lined with perfect prose.
Recently, one of my college friends sent me a bundle of letters I had written her. Reading them was delicious torture ó delicious because it took me back to some good times and torture because I was forced to listen to my insipid young adult voice. Thank heavens the exclamation point is no longer a major weapon in my rhetorical arsenal!I cringed to be confronted by my youthful burblings, to realize what dominated my life and thoughts at the expense of meaningful pursuits. If I were more courageous, I’d quote some of the really bad stuff here, but I’d rather not.
It was hard to confront the girl who wrote those letters, to admit how superficial, shallow and pretentious she was.
But of course she is me. Or rather, my younger self. Once in a while, there is a spark, the hint of a mature voice, which is why I didn’t toss the whole mess of them.
If only my older self could put my arm around this girl who is now a stranger, this skinnier, baby-faced version of me, and say, “The things you’re obsessing about? Not important.”
Would I tell her what is in store for her? “You’ll be married to a man you love, who loves you, for at least 22 years. You will forge a meaningful career you never expected.”
Would I dare tell her the other things? “Your stomach will lurch as you offer your child toxic chemicals in an effort to save her life. Your pulse will pound as drills open up her skull. Your heart will break to see her horizons limited.”
This younger me might swallow hard and say, “Maybe I won’t have kids.”
Then I would say, “Having daughters will be like opening the door to a room you didn’t know existed and finding it filled with a light so bright you think it could blind you, except what it will really do is make you see everything clearly.”
And of course those words would convince her that the years to come would not only be bearable, they would be full of joy and suffused with beauty. Clueless as she was, I think she would understand.
Contact Katie Scarvey at 704-797-4270 or kscarvey@salisburypost.com.

Comments

Comments closed.

High School

North Rowan romps into second round of football playoffs

Nation/World

FBI had interviewed former FedEx employee who killed eight

Crime

Gastonia man sentenced for crash into restaurant that killed his daughter, daughter-in-law

Nation/World

Some call for charges after video of police shooting 13-year-old in Chicago

Business

State unemployment rate falls to 5.2% in March

Coronavirus

NASCAR approach to virus vaccine varies greatly

News

Judge rejects Cherokee challenge against new casino in Kings Mountain

Elections

Jackson tops NC Senate fundraising; Walker coffers also full

Local

Kiwanis Pankcake Festival serves thousands of flapjacks for charity

Coronavirus

Rowan remains in state’s middle, yellow tier for COVID-19 community spread

Crime

Blotter: Man faces sexual exploitation charge for images on Instagram

News

Defendant convicted in attempted murder case on the run after fleeing from trial

Business

Downtown Gateway Building to be renamed for late Paul Fisher

Coronavirus

Rowan County COVID-19 data for April 15

Local

Rep. Warren’s bill would prohibit parking in electric vehicle charging stations

Local

Historic Preservation Commission approves Integro Technologies expansion, Paint the Pavement project

Education

Faith Academy, RSS will negotiate over what goes, stays in elementary school

Crime

Teacher killed in Alamance County shootout with Mexican drug cartel

Coronavirus

Bill would give more tax breaks on COVID-19 loans

Nation/World

No response as divers knock on capsized ship’s hull

Local

Quotes of the week

Crime

Blotter: Man found on church property with litany of drugs

Crime

Man charged in connection to 2019 overdose death

Business

‘It’s our big time’: Salisbury Farmers Market reopens Saturday