Friday, September 23, 2011


Many thanks to Angie for her invitation to talk about what inspires my writing.

Short answer: the magic of words.

 I began reading early, and early discovered the power of words to transport me, to show me the world in new ways, to take me to places unknown. I didn't begin churning out stories as a kid, as many seem to do. I absorbed and observed. I read, not just for the stories, but for the magic of the words themselves.

I've always read slowly. To me, a joy of reading is in the rhythm and color of beautifully constructed sentences, of images that startle me with their clarity, that cause me to read a sentence or paragraph over again just to immerse myself in it. I always will stop to smell the roses.

My early years as the son of a Presbyterian minister whose father had been a missionary to Korea, where my father was born, exposed me to a world of music, art, and spirituality. I played piano, and later, guitar and other folk instruments. I learned the power of art in its many forms to move people. And I learned, as I grew through school, that I had a talent with words.

For a brief time, I taught high school English, and my greatest reward (maybe the only one) came from seeing my kids awaken to their own power with words. I assigned controversial topics for essays and drew stories out of them. Convince me, I said. Make me believe.

Somewhere along the way, in college (isn't that where it always happens?) I began to question dogma.  New possibilities, worlds beyond worlds, unseen forces teased me to look, to wonder.

I wrote songs. Love songs. Songs of social protest. I used the power of words to influence, to move, and to entertain. I wrote poetry, unstudied, free, spontaneous, and the world around me became a live canvas from which to draw.

I'm moved to write because I can. Because the world is a huge, fascinating, terrifying place. A place of ecstasy and sorrow, of heroism and cowardice, of generosity and love and cold, hard malice.  And I've come to feel that we who write have a power to inspire the better aspects of our humanity while seeing all the colors and shying from none. We can entertain. We can offer distraction from pain. We can paint with words. We can show the strength of love in the unlikeliest circumstances.

If, with my use of words, I can transport a reader to a new place, make her look up from the page in an "oh, wow" moment, or cringe in horror, or laugh, or cry, then I've worked a bit of magic.

The pen may well be mightier than the sword. In good hands, it's a magician's wand.

No comments:

Post a Comment