By Cecily Markland
At times, I really don't like to write. Actually, let's tell it like it is, should we. There are times when I HATE writing. I know, I know, it's a strong word for the thing that I also love and that pays the bills and keeps a roof over my head, not to mention bringing me hours of pleasure and a TON of great associates. STILL, there really ARE times when I dislike it immensely.
I know, I know...just two weeks ago, my blog post was a postive--and maybe even preachy--declaration of my glowing feelings of responsibility and the rich reards that have blessed my life from writing.
But, that was then, before last week when The Beehive newspaper hit mailboxes and drop sites across Arizona. For those who may not know, I'm the editor of the Beehive, a newspaper that targets the Latter-day Saint community in Arizona and is published five times a year. In my position as editor, I followed Marsha Ward's excellent lead, as she had been the previous editor and, as a Beehive writer, I learned much from Marsha.
Since late 1998, when I took the reins as editor, I have written literally hundreds of articles for the Beehive and have read and edited many more that have been written by our pool of skilled writers. I've also written articles for other publications, including Mormon Times, Meridian Magazine and the Gilbert Independent newspaper. The vast majority of the time--read: more than 99.999999 percent of the time, I have loved writing for these other publications. Particularly where the Beehive is concerned, it gives me wonderful opportunities to hear about great things the Saints in Arizona are doing. I love writing articles about authors, musicians, artists and playwrights and others who are using their skills and talents to spread light and truth. I enjoy the interviews and hearing people's testimonies and stories about decades of unselfish service and sacrifice. This work helps me keep my writing and editing skills sharp and Iove being paid to do something I really do like doing.
Or, used to really like doing, I mean. That all came to a momentary screeching halt this past week when I came home to find a quite critical and obviously angry letter in my email inbox...and then another. These Beehive readers vehemently disagreed with one of the stories that ran in a recent issue. It was not even one of the stories I had written, but the criticism and anymosity were directed at me and "my" paper. In the few minutes it took to read the emails and to process things a little, my emotions ran the gamut from stunned to ashamed, from hurt to humiliated, and then to embarrassment and regret. It was devastating to read someone's harsh view of me and to see my character and credibility questioned right there in black and white. I felt physically ill for a few minutes; to think that these people really felt I would blatantly try to hurt someone else--or even condone it as an editor--was a real blow. My 12 years of confidence-building writing seemed to be shot down with just a few letters of opposition. I understood that these readers were angry at what the story may do to someone else, but they had little regard for what their cutting words were doing to me. And, they were doing it all based on incomplete facts and without a view of the entire picture.
So, I did what many writers would have done--I used words as weapons in return. Well, not really. Not how I would have liked to, anyway. I did vent in some pretty pointed emails, but I didn't send them back to the disgruntled readers. Instead, I sent them to the Beehive business manager and publishers and we passed several emails back and forth discussing how to handle the situation.
Yep. By that point, I was sort of hating writing. I can only compare it to the feeling I had when I ran over a small kitten in my driveway. I felt horrible. I would have given anything for it not to have happened, but it was, pure and simple, an accident. In both cases, it really wasn't anyone's fault and there was no way I could take it back. I couldn't restore life to that kitten, nor could I change what had already been printed and distributed. Slowly, though, as it had after the kitten incident, a measure of peace began to distil. I felt real compassion--and true empathy--for those who felt they had been wronged by the words of that story. And, with that, came another profound reminder --I saw again the reality of the fact that words really do have power! Words can be used to damage reputations, tear apart relationships and create caverns of misunderstanding. Indeed, as it has been said, words are more powerful than the sword. Yet, just as surely as they can destroy, words can inspire and enlighten, they can build and bless.
I suppose I don't really hate writing at all. The thing I hate is that I don't always get my writing just like I want it. I don't always pick the right word, or I fail to say some words like "thank you" often enough.
I'm thinking that the answer is twofold: Just get back in there and write more...and love more!