Another positive about “letting work rest,” is when a writer goes back to it, it can be read with a fresh eye. Sometimes I and my writer friends admit when going back to a certain story, we are amazed at what we accomplished! That’s happened to me a number of times. Recently I read some stories I wrote years ago, and frankly, I’m amazed at how good they are. “Did I write this?” I ask myself.
While preparing for our annual vacation, our sailboat had to be readied. Alas, a bird had taken up residence in the under parts of the trailer. Plans had to be delayed. There were eggs, nestings, chirps, and flying graduations to witness. When all was said and done, the mama bird wished to return to her nest to begin a second session of motherhood. How awful it was to have to destroy a wonderfully crafted nest of straw, string, feathers, and leaves. As we were hosing down the boat, I kept thinking how much the process reminded me of craft of writing.
We construct our stories and essays, only to have them torn apart by our own sensibilities or the comments our friendly critics share with us. After hearing what should be changed, much like the mama bird, we return again and again to begin again. We tweak and revise. It’s our nature, our DNA.
I studied the nest we removed, and I was amazed by how intricately the straw was woven. I am also amazed at the shades of meanings words have. Recently I gave a program about literacy, learning in the process many facts about the literacy rate in America as compared to that in other countries. I learned most Americans read at the eight grade level. America has a literacy rate of 14% Ouch! That’s not good.
I also studied the various definitions of the word “literate.” Its meaning is not limited to a person’s ability to read and write. It encompasses being knowledgeable, educated, able to think, and so forth. Parents and teachers and mama birds have to teach the younger generation how to write, work, craft, and fly. I worry about young people who haven’t yet learned these skills.
A few weeks ago, I received a thank you note from a high school graduate. He had high scores and was a leader in his class. His note was thoughtful and attractive. I complimented his mother about her son’s note. She said, “He didn’t write it, I did.“ She explained her son told her what to say, but since “he can’t write in cursive I wrote it for him.” She lamented, “It’s a digital world now.” I thanked her for his /her note.
I know it’s a digital world now, and texting is convenient. Even so, there is a need for young people to know how to form the letters of the alphabet and string together words to make a couple of meaningful sentences. Although a note may be improved with some tweaking or revision work, perhaps in the future that person will read what he or she wrote, and say, “I don’t believe I wrote that.” Literally.