I love to write when creativity strikes and while I would contend that is in a place of unbridled creativity that my best ideas come it is not usually where I can expect to write polished pieces. But what is writing for Good? Often the moments of creativity produce sparks and tangents that take time, control, and discipline to flesh out into fully developed arguments that flow. I often have to go back after I have posted to fix spelling and grammar mistakes, and to add prepositions that my eye did not see before publishing. On one side it helps me to realize that i need an editor, or in the least a proofreader for my writing. On the other I become very aware that I still have a great deal to learn technically and stylistically.
Producing writing of publishable quality can be particularly challenging. Each genre and discipline has its own rules about voice (these can even differ from publication to publication, website to website, journal to journal, and from country to country, within a discipline) and the use of “I.” The sense of “joining” a conversation can be daunting, especially when it feels like you stick out like a sore thumb or are wearing shorts and t-shirt and flip-flops [thongs for my Aussie readers] to a black tie gala affair.
When I was taking a graduate level seminar on Milton with Dr. Phillip J. Donnelly during my first semester of Graduate school in the US it became apparent to me that Milton scholars are some of the smartest people I have ever come across. If you don’t believe me go and read his book on Milton’s Scriptural Reasoning: Narrative and Protestant Toleration. I mean, hopefully, you can read really smart erudite people in every field (otherwise it may be problematic that they are experts) but as a whole the Milton scholars blew me away. Talk about tough – they are knowledgeable in rhetorical and classical forms, classical education, as well as the literature of the period, politics and history.
It’s like arriving at a skating rink and you know what the ice looks like and you’ve maybe been on the ice once or twice before and you were pretty wobbly…but then you realise that you are at the Olympics and it’s the final of the individual figure skating and you’re expected to go out there on rental skates and perform a triple axel.
Writing, whether for a Professor who has set you a deadline or for an editor who has set you a deadline, can be more a labor of love than a labor of love if you know what I mean. As the Vampire Slayer herself Buffy Summers once said:
I thought it was gonna be more like in the movies. You know, inspirational music and a montage: me sharpening pencils, reading, writing, falling asleep on a big pile of books with my glasses all crooked because in the montage I have glasses. Real life is so slow and it hurts my occipital lobe.
- I can always keep writing no matter how tired I am but it might not be very good
- I really need some time to proofread and self-edit
- I rarely can write piece longer than 2000 words solely on a computer screen. I like to write all over physical drafts.
- Draft 4 is usually infinitely better than Draft 3, but beyond that changes are cosmetic.
- You need to have at least two runs at a grant application, giving yourself at least 3-5 days between each of them.
- Organizational leaders are busy people. Make the best use of their time and your own.
I guess though for something good to come out of it, hard work is a must. But there is a difference between hard work and self-masochism. I, of course, can say that in hindsight.
What does it mean to write for good in the 21st century?
This is part practical, part philosophic!
“Sharing Meaningful Stories”
Part of the process of living a contemplative life (or any kind of healthy life) is to know and understand how you work best. How about you? Can you write completely on a computer screen? Do you know when and where you write best? Who am I kidding, we all need to know how we live best not just work. What drains you and what fills you up? When do you work best, when is best for errands and other tasks? with music or without music? do you eat to live or live to eat? what does exercise do for your state of mind? are there certain people who bring sunshine into your day?
Never work just for money, or for power,It won’t save your soul, or help you sleep at night– Marian Wright Edelman
I’m not sure I’m any closer to a definition of what it means to write for good in the 21st Century. Reading because you want to and not because you have to might be a start. Carving out physical and intellectual space might be another step. Allowing yourself time and energy to create may be another, including being willing to drop what you should be doing to write and create. My practical upbringing means i feel slightly guilty about dropping the practical to pursue the creative but my sanity thanks me and that, my friends is worth more to me than productivity.
Speaker. Reader. Thinker. Writer. Traveler. Advocate
Anna Blanch Rabe, founder of Anna Blanch Rabe & Associates, has been working with Social Enterprises, socially-responsible businesses, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations since 2006 to develop and effectively execute strategic, digital, and narrative initiatives to gain exposure, develop community capacity, attract talent, and reach new customers. Anna is an Australian-born speaker, writer and advocate. Connect with Anna on Academia.edu, Linked In, Instagram, facebook page, & Twitter.
Have you checked out EMPOWER, our monthly e-Newsletter?