“The words matter”. This simple phrase was uttered by the leader of a creative writing workshop I attended many years ago, and made an indelible impact on how I have interacted with reading and writing in the years since. We were sharing our poetry with the workshop – the leader was given a stack of poems and would read them aloud. One particular poem was printed in an extravagantly elegant font on flowered paper, and after he read it our fearless leader held up the page and said, “Remember this. The words matter. Not the font, not the paper, not any graphic design surrounding the words. You have to make the words matter. If our words can’t stand alone, if our words can’t capture the attention of the reader, then we have failed as writers. Our words paint the pictures. Our words are the pretty font. Only the words matter”.
This seems particularly wise in today’s hyper-visualized world. Even the most brilliant writers have the most advanced graphic design on their websites, because without it, nobody would visit. Our lives revolve around a barrage of imagery, from the news to YouTube, to sharing pictures on Facebook or Flickr. We need the visualization, we crave it like a heroin addict craves sugar. It is the 21st century version of the shiny baubles and keys that attracted us as children. Do the words matter anymore?
I started the blog as a writing exercise. I stopped posting for a variety of reasons, but foremost in my mind was the thought that my words no longer mattered. I had failed as a writer. Today I wonder if it was just an excuse for mental laziness, because I have always had the need to keep writing. So I will try, here and there, to keep writing for myself. Hopefully I can find a way to make the words matter.