Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why Write Books?

Writing Wednesday

Of those who suffer from the pretense (or compulsion) to scribble, some undertake to produce the kind of longer works we call books. If it is a bit presumptuous to think that someone else will want to read a blog entry or article, it must be the height of presumption to think that someone else will want to spend eight to ten hours reading your words.

But you can weave a sort of magic with long-form works; you can conjure a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. Think of a symphony where a motif reappears, juxtaposed with a different theme and suddenly it speaks to you in a whole new way. Or consider the way two people who who have known each other a long time and speak volumes with a word, a gesture, of even a glance.

You see, at a fundamental level, context creates meaning. Why are your children more significant to you than other children? You know their context, sometimes even better than they do.

Long-form works can provide more context, which can make their key moments more meaningful. Notice the conditionals? The long form doesn't guarantee greater significance, it only makes it possible.

One of the fundamental ideas I want to consider and share in my writing is the basic notion of getting beyond one's self. One of the first ways to do so is to become aware of your context. While there are short stories about enlightenment (most religions traditions have a number of such stories), a full exploration practically demands the longer form.

Put another way, learning is much like a journey. You can learn a few things from a short trip. You can learn many things from a longer excursion. The difference comes from the number of opportunities for learning you can embrace in a given amount of time.

I have a lot that I would like to share--stories to tell and ideas to consider--and so I invite you to join me for the journey. I hope to delight you with the long-form as characters and events weave together into a whole that says more than any one of the parts.

Image: Simon Howden /