No amount of care can hide who we are – no amount of pause can obscure the cause we champion or the one we despise. Writing does not cover or hide – writing reveals, and the more we write or speak or shout our words to the world, the more we explain who we are and how we think. Sometimes silence seems like a far safer way to live, but silence is no life.
If we don’t write, we don’t have to be silent – but when we write, we cannot stuff letters back into the keyboard as if they’d never hit the page. Like painters believing they could un-make paint hitting their canvas.
What we say out loud, what we write and call proud – might never be heard, or read, or remembered; and we cringe to think what might last in print or stick in someone’s mind might be our worst words, our least worthy work, or our most regrettable statement. There is no guarantee of that, but there is a defense against it: pause, think, take care, be slow, be deliberate, re-think, edit, edit, edit.
We can’t plan our last words, last piece, or something we might be remembered for having done. And if we are recognized, it ought to be for what we did best, not just last.
Every writer knows everything we write (though in haste I frequently show indifference to this axiom) should be written with the care and precision of it being our last piece – the one we might be best known for, one for which we might be last remembered.
Reminding myself, and readers, that each time we write something – or say something to someone, it might be our last communication, or theirs. We owe it to ourselves, and to anyone who reads what we’ve written, to make the words worthy of the time, and the meaning worthy of the attention someone might give them.
Goes beyond ‘respect for …’, but it is respect for ourselves, honors our readers, and respect for anyone who might ever read our words.
They are, after all, just words on a page we wrote one day. And one day they might be read, and read, and read again. If we invest thought and time and meaning, the recipe should deliver something worth tasting.
When we taste a free sample in the store or bakery, we get a mouthful of something fully baked, fully cooked, not the whole thing – just a tempting bite.
Writing isn’t like that – a mouthful of words don’t reveal the flavor of a book; one sentence alone cannot reveal a plot, create suspense, or state principle, can they?
Sometimes they can.
For instance, Hemingway’s shortest novel: For sale, baby shoes, never worn. Or Mark Twain’s, Never regret anything that made you smile. Or Buddha’s, What we think, we become.
Each sentence, each collection of words, words I choose, their letters, their position, and concoction of meaning, as composers organize notes
But what if this piece was my last?
By that, I don’t intend this to be, but I’m wondering – what if it were?