Wednesday, November 11, 2015

My Thoughts On Writing

Photograph: Erhan Dayi / Alamy/Alamy

Note: This is a post that I wrote 10 years ago on writing. When I read it again, I realized that the same feelings are true 10 years later. I wouldn't change a thing. There is still power in the pen!

It is a peculiar thing… this desire to pick up the pen.

Perhaps, it is born out of the desire to interpret or create life through the people that we’ve met or people that we’ve imagined. Franz Kafka spoke of his torment in writing and how difficult it was to produce a story at times. Ralph Ellison would write for years just to produce one American classic, Invisible Man. Zora Neale Hurston continued to write long after her celebrity had faded; there were dozens of manuscripts found in her personal trunk after her death.

This congenital impulse in me was conceived through the Black oral tradition. My grandmother, Eunice, was the family griot. I would listen intently to the stories that she would tell me as a child. These were stories passed down to her by her elders and she was more than willing to pass them on to me. I was an inquisitive, bright-eyed little boy with dozens of questions about who we were and who we are. She sometimes marveled at the seriousness of my questions that involved the existence of God and the purpose of man. She would usually share these stories while cooking or while she relaxed in her favorite chair. The images that she painted on my imagination were wonderful. I could see all of the characters vividly in my mind. I imagined how they looked. I imagined their lives. I imagined their hearts. These were my people, and I loved them through the stories that I heard about them.

Eventually, I picked up the pen in college and soon realized its power to communicate. I’ve always imagined that a pen is to a writer what a paint brush is to a painter. The words represent color. Honorable mention: Toni Morrison can paint the most beautiful images that I’ve ever seen on paper. These words can evoke emotion and stir the soul to take action for change. There’s power in the pen!

It is a peculiar thing…this desire to pick up the pen.


Anonymous said...

Write on Stephen... make sure you pass the baton :)
Oh!! how I wish children today could stop even if it's just for a moment, and listen to the old stories that will constantly be renewed and alive in our lives!!!

Our elders are the richest, but most neglected sources of information...hmmmm

Stephen A. Bess said...

Thank you for stopping by Tryphina. I love older people. Talking to them is like listening to a book on tape. They have the most wonderful tales of years gone. Their personal accounts are fantastic! Their stories are what the best books are made of. I hope to pass the baton to the next generation of inquisitive young minds. Have a great weekend!

Michele said...

Still. I wonder if writing is a calling...something we feel down in our spirits, and sense we must if we were born to the very task of it. It becomes our burden and our pleasure...again, the thing we must do.
Oral tradition is so powerful, and I love to hear such stories from older folks. Isn't it amazing to just sit and listen to the stories of their lives? I think I could do it for hours. I've often thought how the work of a biographer must be a delight...challenging, yes, but so wonderful to hear the countless, marvelous, colorful stories of another's life. Well said, Stephen.

Stephen A. Bess said...

Soft Spoken-
I experienced the wisdom of my elders this weekend on my visit to the Carolinas. I spent all day Saturday talking to people over 85 years of age. They have much to say (especially my Aunt Susie-Mae) and I listened. Nope...the things that these kids are learning are no comparison.

Yes, my grandfather actually tells me some of the same stories that I hear everytime that I visit him. I don't tell him that I already know the story. I just smile, listen, and respond as if I've heard it for the first time. Thanks! :)

Sandy said...

Hey Stephen,
I don't know if you realize it, but you have a gift that inpires many... Keep on keeping on!


Stephen A. Bess said...

Hello Sandy!
You're right...I didn't realize that, but I think that it's great if I do. This blog is a great place to think out loud. I'm glad that if it can do some good. You know, I owe it all to you. :)

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