Thursday, May 11, 2017



by Cameron Jones

I take a lot of stock in what Joan Didion said in On Keeping a Notebook. Didion discusses this idea of writing with your whole self. I totally agree with this. Quick example: It is almost midnight. I was ready for sleep to embrace me when my brain cut off her arms. You need to write this right now.

I live at the mercy of my pen. Thanks, Brain.

Writing comes with a lot of freedom, but it’s what is done with that freedom that makes a good writer. I find that the words in a script often matter less than the meaning they give. It’s like what the poet Robert Frost says in The Figure a Poem Makes, “ The sound is the gold in the ore.” A talented writer can integrate emotion into their work without revealing their process. The only trace they leave is the sound of their work.

This is why I believe reading and writing are inverse processes: reading is about taking words and drawing meaning out of them. Writing is about taking meaning and putting it into words. One can only read the words in front of them, but a writer can express anything in the bounds of their imagination.

I took a yoga class. Our teacher really pushed this idea of quieting the mind, gaining focus. Despite my best efforts, my head is filled with noise. There’s music and voices and blood rushing.

And there’s laughter. The relentless tapping of nails across my sense of insecurity.

I’ve found that I can only gain the quiet I want by letting the voices out; So I write them down, And I write a lot.

I write so much, in fact, that this paper is coming out of two notebooks.

Notebook One, I keep in my bag. It’s a spiral-bound academic notebook. I write essays and topical pieces in here.

Notebook Two goes on my bedside table. It’s a little black composition notebook. I write in this one almost exclusively after eleven PM. This notebook contains more satire, poetry, and thoughts on racism, sexism, and religion-- things I believe in that shouldn’t leave the room.

I have views on society that revolve around true equality. I write these down to remember what I value, and also to derive how to address my values. But if my views left my head or my pages, I would be laughed at. I would be an atheistic white man; My views would be judged by my background, not by their truth. This is why pianists’ wives would compose music under their husband's names. This is why writers use pen names. Premature judgment is the bane of any writer.

I would use a pen name, but it would make me a hypocrite. To write under a falsehood is to write without heart. I can’t worry about being taken seriously for who I am. My only goal as a writer is for readers to look past the individual and understand the message.

This is why writing is such a challenging craft. I write with a voice that is unique to me. It’s natural, springing from my earliest memories. My voice is likely to create bias in some people. So, my true goal as a writer is to choose the right words to reach my point, without creating bias in other people.
Readers’ bias is what makes a good reader. The whole reason conflict is appealing to readers is because they identify with it, either on some superficial level or somewhere deep they can’t admit.

And that’s the conflict in this story: My goals as a writer conflict with the desires of the reader. I would even go as far as to say this is a common occurrence in the real world. People like to see conflict unfold, but no one wants to see that they are the problem.

That’s why visionaries are never appreciated in their time. They challenge the face of society when society would rather read another Nick Sparks novel.

The point of this piece is to give my experience with writing. My experience is a world of frustration over not being accepted by a society that can’t take criticism.

Because the adage is false: No one is their harshest critic. Writers are.

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