Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Writer's Dilemma

I've been reading over my collection of short stories and trying to evaluate which ones are better than others and why. It's an overwhelming challenge for writers to read over their work with any degree of objectivity in the first place. What seemed like a brilliant idea when they first got started begins to feel empty and lifeless, the words lying hollow and stilted on the page. I know that most writers are poor judges of their own work, yet I sit in judgment of my stories, analyzing what makes them sing, what makes them hold the reader's attention, what (I hope) make the reader want to laugh or cry.
My conclusion brings me no comfort. It's my own vulnerability on display, my own pain that makes my writing real. My secret fears, disguised in the cloak of a story, are what holds my reader's attention. If I am to achieve any success as a writer, I will have to force my soul to stand naked on the stage and share everything about myself that I'd rather hide. I will have to strip away the mask that smiles when I want to cry. I will have to open when I want to close. I will have to face judgment with humility. That is my task.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Winning, Losing, and Playing the Game

I read an interesting column in the newspaper on Sunday. A children's sports coach wrote to "Dear Amy" asking for advice on how to handle hostile parents after running a play that knocked their team out of the championship. Amy replied that the parents who openly denigrated and snubbed the coach were teaching their children poor sportsmanship, that winning was more important than playing the game, and that mistakes are unforgivable.
Politicians have been playing a much larger game in Washington in their fight over raising the debt ceiling limit. And they are showing us how much they value winning the fight over crafting real solutions to frighteningly real problems. Who won and who lost? Those are questions everyone is asking. At first glance, it appears that no one has won. Democrats and Republicans alike emerged from the battle muddy and bruised, and the American people are left with a compromise that may or may not address the harsh realities of unsustainable economic policies. Because politicians in Washington behave as though winning is more important than playing the game, everyone may have lost.