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Shoulda, coulda, woulda of writing: Editor's Notes #372
August 24, 2022

You should write.
—Many people in my past, too many to mention

In this issue:

1. Shoulda, coulda, woulda of writing
2. Tickled my funny bone
3. Interesting Web site
4. Writing prompt

1.Shoulda, coulda, woulda of writing
Elementary teachers said I could write, and they meant that I was, at that time, capable of excellent writing and also that I might make a living out of that activity in the future. Once I was an adult, there was the pile-on of you-should-write.

My usual response was stunned silence. I regularly wrote for hours every day. What were these people taking about? Finally it dawned on me that these people meant that I should write — and publish — for money.

In the last issue of Editor’s Notes, Jane Covernton wrote about writers who were not writing or not happy with their writing for various reasons, a circumstance Jane calls Writing Undone. The original of that article sparked a lively local discussion on Facebook because it opened a conversation about what creativity and art are, including whether "publishing" matters.

There are shelves of books discussing the definition of art.

Without digging too deeply into philosophy, let me suggest that art is a practice, and as such, it reaches back, forward, and out. It may help to think of other practices. Here are a few: medicine, football, counselling, navigation, warfare, architecture, music, preaching.

Reaching back, a practice has a history, a basis in past theories and activities recognized by other practitioners as important, even if they were sometimes replaced by newer ideas. Reaching forward, a practice improves as practitioners build upon the work of past practitioners. Reaching out, a practice is part of the complex relationships that make up humanity and tend toward making society and the world better. (I’ll let you sit with warfare on that one.)

To be an artist (a writer) is to be a practitioner of a creative endeavour. I argue that although a person’s writing may not be economically sustaining, to be fully realized, the writing does need to be shared in some way. Not all the writing we produce is shared — thank goodness! But writing, as a tool of communication, reaches outward from the writer to a reader or to multiple readers.

And if the writer produces many drafts that no one else ever sees, that writer is still participating in a practice in so far as the writer writes from the deep well of past literature, and moves, even if only almost imperceptibly, forward into uncharted territory.

Which brings me to the title of this article. If you are tied in knots struggling with shoulda, coulda, woulda related to your writing, consider that you are part of a great company of communicators who use words to enrich the world. You might be in a dry spell when it comes to production, or you might not know just which part of the world needs your words, or you may be experimenting with different forms of writing without settling on what suits you. No matter what feels odd or depressing or even dead about your writing, look back, look forward, and reach out. Write something for someone: a note of thanks or encouragement to someone who needs to hear from you, a letter to the editor, a story featuring a child you know, a letter of friendship to yourself.

To those who are not struggling right now, reach out to another writer. You never know who needs an encouraging word. Tell the other writer something you appreciate about what they have written. Your words might make all the difference.

2.Tickled my funny bone
From a medical report: On the second day, the knee was better and on the third day it completely disappeared.

3. Interesting Web site
For a brief exploration of the definition of art and some notable examples see the page linked here. (I appreciated Degas’ quote. Check it out.)

4. Writing prompt
Our artistic expressions are our treasures. Write about treasures shared or hoarded. I’d love to see your result.

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