Searchlights & Signal Flares


Tiny Lights' On-line Writer's Exchange

Writing Is Its Own Reward. True or False? (12/15/04)



Featured writer: Clara Rosemarda



Contributors this month:
Betty Winslow
Clara Rosemarda
Marlene Cullen
Rodney L. Merrill
Susan Bono


Writing is its own reward. True or False?

by Clara Rosemarda

An image pops up on the screen of my mind. As I shower, a memory slips through a crevice in my brain and expands like a sponge in water. When I should be paying bills, an idea stands up demanding to be amplified. If I can sit with pen and notebook when these sparks of delicious inspiration come, the writing moves along smoothly like swimming in tropical waters. I can go forever without coming up for air.

In the revising process, if I know what the piece wants to say and I get into a rhythm, the rest is gravy. It's chocolate mousse, a hot brandy, the feel of a silk blouse on bare skin. These are gifts from the muse. They come along in their own sweet time whenever they please. The rest of writing is simply what you do. Like raising a child, it has its good moments, its difficult ones, and its homicidal-suicidal-let's-destroy-everything-moments.

When someone wants to publish your writing the thrill can be as exciting as a one-night stand: it's hot and quick, and you're left, the next morning, staring at an empty sheet. Feeding the ego is occasionally OK, but like a Hollywood tan, it is only skin deep. The pay scale…well, let's not mention that.

Then a reader is moved or inspired by your words. You get a warm feeling everywhere. You've made the connection. Someone had a shift, even a small one, because of your words. Whaddya think—weekend fling or a two-week affaire?

Now for the real relationship. The long-term, monogamous, committed marriage, for better or for worse, where the true rewards are finally found, is with the empty page itself, naked. The writer's master bedroom.

Clara Rosemarda swims, writes, and teaches in Santa Rosa, California. Contact her at rosen@sonic.net or www.steeped.org

Betty Winslow



Hmm. Is writing its own reward? A reward is a prize or award one receives for a service done to others. Being its own reward implies that writing is enough all by itself, a prize awarded to me even if my writing doesn't go anywhere else, doesn't serve anyone else. I guess I'd say, "False." Why?

Writing is the way I sort out what goes on inside my head and heart.

It's the way I work out the grief that keeps coming my way.

It's the way I share what wisdom I have gained, so that others don't have to walk the same path to get it.

It's how I make sure memories of good times and lost loved ones continue to exist.

It's the way I make my friends and family laugh—and cry.

It's the way I ensure that checks keep arriving in my mailbox, along with the bills.

It's how I often choose to fill my time.

It's the way I safely spill my anger, hurting no one.

It's the way I say "I love you".

It's how I use the gifts God has given me to serve His creation.

Writing may not be its own reward, but it sure brings a lot of rewards with it.

Betty Winslow, writing for all sorts of reasons in Bowling Green, Ohio

Writing is its own reward. True or False?

  by Clara Rosemarda

An image pops up on the screen of my mind. As I shower, a memory slips through a crevice in my brain and expands like a sponge in water. When I should be paying bills, an idea stands up demanding to be amplified. If I can sit with pen and notebook when these sparks of delicious inspiration come, the writing moves along smoothly like swimming in tropical waters. I can go forever without coming up for air.

In the revising process, if I know what the piece wants to say and I get into a rhythm, the rest is gravy. It's chocolate mousse, a hot brandy, the feel of a silk blouse on bare skin. These are gifts from the muse. They come along in their own sweet time whenever they please. The rest of writing is simply what you do. Like raising a child, it has its good moments, its difficult ones, and its homicidal-suicidal-let's-destroy-everything-moments.

When someone wants to publish your writing the thrill can be as exciting as a one-night stand: it's hot and quick, and you're left, the next morning, staring at an empty sheet. Feeding the ego is occasionally OK, but like a Hollywood tan, it is only skin deep. The pay scale…well, let's not mention that.

Then a reader is moved or inspired by your words. You get a warm feeling everywhere. You've made the connection. Someone had a shift, even a small one, because of your words. Whaddya think—weekend fling or a two-week affaire?

Now for the real relationship. The long-term, monogamous, committed marriage, for better or for worse, where the true rewards are finally found, is with the empty page itself, naked. The writer's master bedroom.

Clara Rosemarda swims, writes, and teaches in Santa Rosa, California. Contact her at rosen@sonic.net or www.steeped.org

Writing is its own reward. True or False?

  by Marlene Cullen

In some ways, I think the answer to this question is, "reading is the reward." Whether I reread what I have written, or what someone else has written, the reward is enjoying the words and feelings that filter from the page, or computer screen, to my brain. I can feel my face light up and the crinklings of a smile as I enjoy an "aha" connection. Writing certainly is a way to mull things over, to solve problems, to try and understand. I love and cherish when I read someone's work and think, "Yes, me, too."

I appreciate each and every one who puts bottom to chair so that I may be rewarded with their endeavors. Last night, I stayed up until midnight reading a novel that I couldn't put down. I doubt the author wrote for her own reward, and I appreciate that she kept at it so that I could be entertained.

Thank you to all of you who write. It is my pleasure to enjoy your work whether in print, on the screen and definitely within Searchlights and Signal Flares.

If you haven't read "So Many Books, So Little Time," by Sara Nelson, check it out. It is a delightful account of a year of passionate reading

Marlene Cullen enjoys reading in Petaluma, CA

Rodney L. Merrill



Writing is its own reward? Balderdash and poppycock!

The act of writing can be rewarding. But I don't believe that is what is meant when I am asked, "Is writing its own reward?" What I am being asked is: "Is the act of writing a complete act, sufficient unto itself so that no further reward of any kind is needed?" And to that my response would be no, without hesitation or reserve.

Stamp collecting may be its own reward. Or gardening. Swimming. These are sufficient unto themselves because they are individual activities. But writing is by its very nature an interaction with society. Writing is thought committed to paper with the intent of communication. Otherwise, one could be content simply to think a thing.

Writing is a social act, deriving from society, its language, its symbols, its premises. It is a response to the world in which one is located. In other words, to commit a thing to paper is to recommend that it be read. Without reading, the act of writing is incomplete. And to read it oneself is not enough, just as talking to oneself is not enough.

Reading is its own reward. But writing is a hand extended—which has no reward unless it is firmly grasped and shaken.

Rodney L. Merrill finds rewards in writing at www.elite-word.com.

Susan Bono



Writing is its own reward. True or False?

I know plenty of writers who write no matter what. They count writing as one of life's essential activities, like eating, sleeping and brushing their teeth.

I am not one of those writers, at least not lately. These days, I have to drag myself kicking and screaming to the edge of every deadline, and, in spite of the alarms clanging in my ears, push myself in. There I flounder around sucking wind and water until I manage to drag myself back out clutching a few soggy thoughts in my hand. My biggest reward for writing is that I get to say I survived it.

And oddly enough, right now, that seems reason enough to keep doing it. I know how pathetic that sounds. I wouldn't blame anyone for wondering why I even bother. Writing is hard work, we all know that, but it shouldn't be plain misery, should it?

All I can say is that I have regretted many things in life, but never the act of having written. Every word I've ever had to trick or badger myself into writing represents a moment when I faced a wall of self-doubt and pushed through it. I know other writers who have tackled more difficult subjects at greater personal risk. Perhaps their rewards are greater, but every time I write, even I am brave.

Susan Bono gets her courage up in Petaluma California.

Searchlights Editor:

Susan Bono

Columnists:

Christine Falcone, David Samuel Johnson, Betty Rodgers

Susan Bono is a writing coach, editor and freelance writer whose work appears in newspapers, anthologies and the Internet. She has published Tiny Lights, a journal of personal essay, since 1995, along with its online counterpart here at tiny-lights.com. From 2000—2005 she helped coordinate the Writer's Sampler series for the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. Her short essays and columns have appeared in various anthologies, magazines, newspapers and on the radio. Her most recent credits include Passager Magazine, Red Hills Review, the St. Petersburg Times, the Petaluma Argus Courier, the Anderson Valley Advertiser and KRCB radio's Word by Word.

Christine Falcone has been writing most of her life. Her work has appeared in print and online, and it has aired on public television and public radio. One of her writing goals for 2008 is to find an agent for her recently completed first novel, "This Is What I Know," which was named as a finalist in the William Faulkner Wisdom Creative Writing Competition out of New Orleans. She is currently in a new writing space, painted purple for inspiration, busily at work on another novel -- this one having to do with the nature of violence.

David Samuel Johnson was reared on a mountain in Arkansas. He lived the bohemian lifestyle in the Ozarks as a hillbilly vagabond, traversing the mountainside shirtless and most of the time shoeless, exploring the sensuality of the aromatic, organic-rich soil of the forest floor or the harsh poetry of greenbriers twined around a devil’s-walking-stick. As a kid he wanted to be a writer and own a snake farm when he grew up. His Mama knew she couldn't dissuade him from either goal. When he brought a poisonous copperhead snake home in his pocket, she bought him a book about snakes so he’d know which ones he could bring home and which ones to leave behind. When he wrote his first poem to a girl in kindergarten, she showed him how to use a dictionary so he could spell the word "beautiful." David's goal of a snake farm and the love of his mountain have manifested into a PhD in ecology. David’s dream of writing has evolved from his first poem in kindergarten to essays in newspapers to interview articles in magazines and columns in this journal. He is living a beautiful dream, some of which you can glimpse below.

David the Writer

David the Scientist

Betty Rodgers and her husband, Ken, live and watch birds in Boise, Idaho. A transplant among transplants, she has chosen to learn the local landscape through the lens of her Pentax K10D. Her writing career began at an early age when she wrote plays and coerced her boy cousins to perform them. She has enjoyed a life-long affair with journalism, writing for the Sacramento Bee, the Cloudcroft Mountain Monthly, the Sebastopol Times and News, and the Boise Weekly. Born in Steinbeck Country, she has also lived in Maine and New Mexico. Betty publishes a bi-monthly online newsletter for Idaho writers, a labor of love inspired by Terry Ehret. In 2006, she published A Mano, a book of poetry by the late Vince Pedroia.

Thanks to all who participated this month. It's good to know you're out there! We're looking forward to hearing from you and those you inspired sometime soon! Check this column each month to see what's new. Return to Searchlights & Signal Flares menu for future topics and guidelines.

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