MORNING COFFEE 7 - rosetta

by Susan Weber

In the newest Grisham novel, book-loving characters compare notes about how long they give an author to engross them before moving on to the next ripe peach. One says a hundred pages, another draws the line at fifty. I’ve just started Colson Whitehead’s book named The Underground Railroad. He had me at paragraph two. The voice, the intellect, the feeling embedded in each true phrase—the writing holds me in its lyric thrall.

You might expect an aspiring writer to despair at the tour de force accomplished by an expert. But this is not the case.

Learning to write is like learning a new language. You pack a few rules and some vocabulary in your kit and set out for the place where everyone’s babbling away. At first you listen a lot. In time, you even understand. But when you open your mouth, infantile words come out. Native speakers humor your ambition and treat you like a child. There is no getting around this embarrassment.

I read, profusely, the masterful fiction I’m not prepared to write. This is the listening discipline. Writing is the speaking requirement of the language learner. Thankfully readers indulge me, even when I sound like a blithering fool. Incrementally I’ll get there. I’ve learned languages before.

Photo by Marieke Kuijjer CC BY-SA 2.0