Recently I was forced to ask myself this question: Do good writing skills equal good writing? What prompted the question was a blog I read from a writer who reached into my soul and tugged at my heart so completely, I found myself immersed in the spirit of her words. Because of her writing, I began to notice the emotional impact of other writers and of myself.
For so many years, I had been concentrating on perfecting the art of writing to the point where I had put myself on a pedestal of sorts, basking in the knowledge that I had the best instructors guide me along this path. Don't get me wrong – I make mistakes – lots of them, but sometimes I think I depend so much on the technique of writing that I ignore the heart of writing.
I remember when the Beatles first came out. I was in grammar school when more than one teacher mentioned the improper English spoken by the Fab Four. Yes, I noticed. Ever the perfectionist even then, I noticed that their subjects and verbs didn't always agree. But did it matter? Not in the least. The strong emotional connection I felt with the Beatles and their music was enough. It was more than enough. At the time it was nearly everything.
Several years ago I met a man whose life revolved around his guitar playing. He wanted me to write his biography and in it he wanted me to call him a "Guitar God." I refused, and not because his guitar playing didn't rival that of even the best guitarists – it did – the man was technically perfect.
But he was missing something. Though he could imitate Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Eric Johnson, and other "guitar gods" with perfection, he somehow missed that soul connection with his audience. With mechanical perfection and timing, he wowed other guitarists and audiences with his technical precision. But he couldn't pick the heartstrings of his listeners.
I see that same problem with writers. Technically perfect in their presentation, they concentrate so much on the mechanics of writing that they can't connect with an audience. Maybe we have all been guilty of that practice at times. I know I have been.
Like the woman who wrote the blog that touched me in so many ways, writers want that kind of connection with their readers. We want to engage our audience in powerful ways. We want our readers (or viewers in the case of movies and television shows) to laugh, to cry, to FEEL.
As with any art form, the artist strives for perfection, but the perception of the recipient is what matters most. Maybe we don't need that perfect voice, just the one that resonates with our readers and our viewers. Writers who manage to touch us in those ways have that magical quality of reaching right through us where they either tickle our funny bones, ignite us with passion, or pull on our hearts so hard they pull the tears right out of our eyes.
And that's when the magic happens.
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