Sunday, November 22, 2015

Mary Rickert's Letter to a Young Writer

In the 28th in a series of posts on 2015 books entered for The Story Prize, Mary Rickert, author of You Have Never Been Here (Small Beer Press), stresses the importance of words themselves.

Dear Young Writer,

I know many people have told you to make the language invisible, but what if they are wrong? Consider the possibility that words are not mere instruments of description but tools of alchemy.
Boa Senior
Try believing, for a while, in a reality where each word carries all its definitions everywhere it goes. What is light? Is it what we see in darkness, or the weight of a load? Yes, of course, context creates meaning but consider the possibility that with everything you write once, you create a hundred songs. Try to hear those songs. Listen, only a few years ago Boa Senior, the last speaker of the ancient language of Bo, from the Andaman Islands, died. What reality died with her? Ask yourself if you are writing like a person whose pen keeps the world alive, and if you aren’t, ask yourself why not? What are you doing? What do you believe in? Would you die for your art? Because really, in the end, we all die for the life we’ve chosen. Make sure you say what you have come to say and not just what others prescribe. Write like you are the only one who can impart your meaning. Because you are.