On Being a Responsible Writer
by William Alan Rieser
The first onus of the pen or keyboard is scholarship, for writing without knowledge or the wisdom of utilizing it is absurd, in spite of the fact that there are many who ignore such obvious advice. Knowing commences as a juvenile process by having a system of values and develops into maturity by investigating those of other people. Failing to study and absorb the values of others is precisely what causes disharmony and conflict whereas recognizing it is the pursuit of truth and reason. Those who intend to address the public are honor bound, not regulated, to know what they are talking about because words are powerful and will cause an effect. The media, for instance, is perhaps the most potent force in Western civilization because it shapes and manipulates thought in ways that governments cannot. Art alone, and especially literature, is the means by which man can, and occasionally does, progress from the primordial slime and self destructive tendencies of our basic nature.
It has taken many thousands of years for this condition to manifest itself amidst the other swirling force, the rotation of tyrants and their never-ending struggle to dominate life. He that can destroy a thing, controls a thing, the only precept by which such people argue for existence. One of the few benefits of history is that it portrays, however slovenly, how religion first defies tyranny with morality before it becomes infested with corruption and meaningless drivel. The Industrial Revolution was man’s repudiation of religion and the adoption of mass materialism as a ploy against the edicts that threaten freedom. It has not been a global rebellion and vies with religion to compete for men’s thinking, even as those who reign attempt to influence modern civilization with both legalistic and lawless societies structured upon the amassing of wealth and armor. Against such juggernauts, a writer must find ways to speak the same messages to every receptive ear with a kind of moral telepathy so that it will be perceived as intended. This is not an easy task for it requires an uncommon clarity of thinking and the ability to express unconfined views with candor amidst opposition.
The second burden of the writer is to realize with unobstructed lens what existentialism is, that there is no God beyond insubstantial faith and that man is therefore capable of doing anything which includes rising up out of the puddle of stupidity. In other words, as a writer, you are tasked to comprehend the strength of your freedom. Truth cannot be found without asking and answering the perennial questions, especially in this so-called age of information. Is the data valid? If it isn’t, why are we being misled and who is doing it? Art is the only venue that consistently phrases these queries, for science is hamstrung by empiricism and politics is a hopeless canard. The writer, unlike anyone else, is obligated to delve conundrum and seek explanations, not to placate spurious possibilities, but to define that which is absolute and irrefutable. To do that requires courage and a fierce determination to verify reality and say what one really thinks. This is atypical because most writers are cowards who dwell on publication rather than content. Most prefer to see their words in print and get paid for gibberish rather than stand for something that needs to be said. That is why the obligation is so personal.
You will become shunned and isolated because you do not repeat what others are spewing mindlessly. You may be feared and stifled like Camus and Solzhenitzen. It is possible you can obtain a position of prominence and release veracity in tiny stages so as not to overwhelm your audience, like Safire. You may, like Ghandi, Sadat, Rabin and countless others, remind the world that being a minority of one, the truth remains, even with a bullet for exclamation. You may choose fantasy and other forms of fiction to state in camouflaged prose that which is too pertinent and upsetting for columnar expression and the common inanity of periodical blather. You may discover yourself rejecting copy for its own sake. You could even light a fire to illuminate the darkness for a time, providing a spark for others to enrich. And if you do it with the intention of seeking fame, you are likely to be disappointed. If too radical, you might never be published. The voices that haunt and challenge us from the past tend to be those of lonely, solitary men, often repudiated and vilified for having the courage and honesty of their convictions. They tend to resurface in times of crisis.
All of which reveals the third burden, patience. An impatient writer does little to provide for his causes, blurts things out rather than refines labored thinking, mixes all colorings to gray rather than call attention to a new iridescence. Rush not to harvest fruit when it is clearly unripe, when the seeds of a new truism need tending, the nurturing of its watered roots and sunned branches. When you discover something that cries out for revelation, let it first be exposed to time and the strength of your concentration. The need for exposure may be great but it is best to say it well and tellingly. Let it flow and deliver itself into your mind and hands. And after you rewrite it, make certain of its importance and let it say what you really mean. All else is essentially frivolous and self serving. If you comprehend and agree with these statements, you are ready to ponder and write about that which is meaningful. Success!
© 2002 William Alan Rieser
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