What Is There In Writing Except Language

Some say that there is a decline in the novel, while others claim that it is not the novel that is in decline but the readership. I personally think that at no time in the history of the novel has there been as many novels and stories published as today. Technology has made it easy for us to publish and read digitally. From advertisement, to courses, to articles and stories, to magazines and novels. People sometimes spend hours online, reading. The internet, twitter, blogging and digital publishing have helped turn us global. However, as Isaac Bashevis Singer, 1978 Nobel Prize winner, said in his Nobel lecture:

“There is no machine and no kind of reporting and no kind of film that can do for us what a Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky or Gogol did. Progress can never kill literature, any more than it can kill religion. The more technology, the more people will be interested in what the human mind can produce without the help of electronics. …if we have people with the power to tell a story, there will always be readers.”

Of the ten or so books that I read last month, there was not a single one that I can say I absolutely loved. I only liked some for their story, others for the characters and yet others for the writing itself, for the style in which they were written. In every one of those books there was at least one thing that the writer did well. And then I realized that no matter how bad a book is, there is always something in it that the writer is good at. The genius is the one who gets every aspect of the novel or the story right.

During an interview the late writer Gore Vidal was asked if there was anything in writing except language, and his reply was:

“In the writing of novels there is the problem of how to shape a narrative. And though the search for new ways of telling goes on- I don’t think there are going to be new discoveries. For one thing, literature is not science. There is no new formula. Some of us write better than others; and genius is never forced.”

On this note I would like to repost a story that I had posted earlier.

A blind boy sat on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet. He held up a sign which said: “I am blind, please help.” There were only a few coins in the hat.
A man was walking by. He took a few coins from his pocket and dropped them into the hat. He then took the sign, turned it around, and wrote some words. He put the sign back so that everyone who walked by would see the new words.
Soon the hat began to fill up. A lot more people were giving money to the blind boy. That afternoon the man who had changed the sign came to see how things were. The boy recognized his footsteps and asked, “Were you the one who changed my sign this morning? What did you write?”
The man said, “I only wrote the truth. I said what you said but in a different way.” I wrote:
“Today is a beautiful day but I cannot see it.”


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107 Responses to What Is There In Writing Except Language

  1. liamodell1 says:

    I like the quote at the end. Very interesting.

  2. What a powerful story to tell about the power of words. 🙂

  3. klyse3 says:

    Terrific illustration. I also liked your comment that even in the worst of stories, there is something the author does well. I have also found this to be true.

  4. I am fascinated by the intersection of technology and writing — as a full-time freelance writer, I’m currently in the process of compiling my blog posts into an e-book, and I look forward to seeing how readers respond…or don’t!

    One of the brilliant aspects of blogging is interaction — as such, I respond to practically every comment, which means on my “About” page alone, for example, I have more than 500 comments. It does take a lot of time to respond — but it’s one of my favorite parts of blogging! So what will the e-book feel like without the dialogue?

    I realize that Gore Vidal would probably ridicule me for bringing my readers into my writing, considering I am not “shaping a narrative” as much as I’m allowing my audience to shape it themselves. But that’s one of the highlights of that intersection of technology and writing, right?

    And by the way, what an emotional story at the end — love it! 🙂

  5. howanxious says:

    Words can bring about such a major difference in one’s writing. Once, I was reading a memoir of a poet by an Indian author in which he classified the writing of the poet and the poet as the same entity. The same can be applied in case of prose. Technology has changed the way we interpret things. Frankly telling, I have read most of the literary pieces through this digital network.

    • Sharing our words and supporting fellow writers is the joy that technology has brought – it doesn’t limit our audience or the parameters of where our words can go. Our writing community maybe physically close to us with a writing circle but now it is so much more as virtual friends can share just as easily.
      Great blog thanks for sharing.

      • chichikir says:

        Thank you! One of the pleasures of blogging is the interaction with fellow writers! I love it when other bloggers take the time to read and comment on my post. There are some really wonderful articles posted every day that I love to read too! Amazing experience thanks to technology!

      • It certainly helps us expand our writing community…happy writing.

  6. I like this. One of my teachers used to say, “the largest conglomerate of writers can be found in the graveyard” – meaning that everyone has a story to tell and to write. Just not everyone get published.
    These days I think a lot of things get published that really should not see the light of day. But in the same breath, I also think that as long as people read, let them read – no matter what.

  7. Now that’s a touching story up there. And there certainly is a lot of new novels out there thanks to technology. However, the downside of that is that people are publishing stuff without getting it edited or critiqued, which means some of these new novels look like someone who doesn’t know English well or who has a fifth-grader’s writing skills published a story.

  8. The Smile Scavenger says:

    Excellent post. The story at the end really brings it together. As an avid reader, I know that what you say is true – most stories get some elements just right, but usually not all of them. That’s what keeps me hungry, personally. I got my fill on excellent characters, but where was the plot? Time for another. Ah, this one has a much better plot! But where is the witty dialogue? Time for another…

    When I do read that rare nearly-perfect book, I usually wait an extra week or so to recommence my reading frenzy.

  9. A beautiful story, and a wonderful illustration of the power of words — and a good headline.

  10. markharwoodwriter says:

    It’s been commented on above, but I want to give my kudos, too: “no matter how bad a book is, there is always something in it that the writer is good at.” I think you’re right, but at least every book is the product of hours and sweat. Someone once told me to think of every novel as a gift from that author to every reader.

  11. I totally agree with you and think this is a great post – keep it up and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  12. Raunak says:

    this post just reaffirmed my faith in “Freshly Pressed” posts!

  13. The quote is beautiful. Such a wonderful verbal painting.

  14. Bobby Slick says:

    I agree, books aren’t my thing. That’s why I do music reviews.

  15. stevenegg says:

    As a new writer your thoughts meant a lot to me as I hope to learn this craft. I would like to inspire with words as you have done, reminding people to look for the good in something no matter how bad it may be.

  16. Nice story. I’d say there is a far wider choice of reading material thanks to e-publishing Too much politics in publishing houses which tend to ‘churn out’ the same old tired stories with the same tired stereotypes. I get the impression it’s very cliquey and if you don’t fit in, then you don’t get published.

    • chichikir says:

      I totally agree. Publishing is all about money and the commercial value of a book. Whether it can be sold and how much profit it can bring the publishers. Look around you…

  17. Malia says:

    I loved the illustration of the bind boys sign to show the power of words. That in itself shows just what language can do.

  18. Love this post and that story, which I had seen played out previously in a television ad. Thanks for sharing and congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

  19. changeforbetterme says:

    Very good posting. I am an aspiring writer, so I am trying to find how to write and write well. I also believe that everyone has a story to tell, whether it’s in the form of a paper book, e-book or even a blog. Yes while it is true not everything that gets published is well written. If you look past that and take it in spirit rather then counting every mistake made, you will get the story that is being told. My opinion only of course. As for finding that perfect book, it’s all in a reader’s interpretation of what makes a book perfect for them.

    • chichikir says:

      Thanks for your comment. I personally think that we learn from the bad books more than from the good. Each time I come across something that is ‘bad’ I remember not to do it while I write. Imagine if I don’t like something, how can I expect my readers to like it?

  20. nazarioartpainting says:

    You just enjoy whatever you do. 🙂

  21. tetyanalive says:

    so empowering, thank you!

  22. innamazing says:

    I loved the story about the blind kid. So moving, so touching. Thank you for this great post.
    Swing by my blog if you ever feel like it http://innamazing.wordpress.com/

  23. Sailor V says:

    This is a wonderful post and this gives a reassuring message and one that will resound with everyone no matter what your skill level is. Writers, professionals or hobbyists, want to express their messages to the world and chances are they often are the same kinds of messages just worded differently. Inspiration, genius, or even saying meaningful words is never forced – it is gently coaxed into life. Thank you so much for reminding us of this.

  24. cutecuteysao says:

    Reblogged this on chryzalynmaeysao and commented:
    a writer is someone who can tell a story out of his or her experiences and shares it to the world.. moreover, he/she touches life in a very different way! 🙂

  25. theroyalist says:

    A great post. A very enjoyable and moving read.

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  27. Wonderful post. The story of the blind boy, mind blowing. I like stories where people help others. Congrats on the Freshly Pressed. Check out our family blog when you get a chance

  28. Excellent blog, I really enjoyed your insight. Keep up the good work. Please visit http://www.mynutritioninsight.com for information and disease prevention and healthy food and drink recipes.

  29. It is so true. I reckon people often forget that technology is here to help us, not to make us become what we are not. This is especially so if we do not have the talent necessary for that!

  30. char says:

    Loved this post! And that story at the end was great. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed. It’s nice to find good blogs to follow.

  31. I love this story! I am not a writer myself, but I enjoy reading, and of course a writer’s style is a huge part of it.

  32. VivianaAyre says:

    “no matter how bad a book is, there is always something in it that the writer is good at”
    LOL, does that include Twilight? xDDDDD

  33. Jejeje that little story got into a lot of troubles an independent film director from my city. Watch “La Historia de un Letrero” is a short film that he made but everybody accusse him of plagarism when the story is actually of free domain.

  34. Pingback: Excellent analogy here – | Rusty Blackwood – Author

  35. It’s all about how we tell our stories. I do wish at least one of the Brothers Karamazov had been a vampire, though 😉
    Love the story!

  36. Manisha says:

    Excellent post! An inspiration for me to learn how to connect with my readers better through the words I write. Thank you 🙂

  37. susielindau says:

    I have heard this story before. Such a wonderful message.
    I wrote down your three key points in which each novel seems to contain one. I am posting “characters, story, and writing style” above my desk for inspiration while finishing my first novel. Thanks for that and congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  38. Very good post! The quote you mentioned at the end is well-known here in Brazil.

  39. Dawn Akemi says:

    It’s not always what you say but how you say it. 😉

  40. ssrijana says:

    the story is very nice 😀

  41. Yannis Vatis says:

    Reblogged this on DreamFalls Blog.

  42. Yannis Vatis says:

    Thank you so much for writing this! Truly motivating and inspirational. I’m certain all writers, whether in their beginnings or already masters of their craft, will learn something from the message you brought forth.

  43. Lovely post, I really enjoyed it. Thinking of ‘bad books’. I think that anyone who can finish a 100,000 novel and get it published deserves praise. I manage 450 words on posts on my blog and feel a sense of achievement. Not so many readers but it is the putting pen to paper (can we still say that today?) and being able to express my thoughts that I enjoy. Perhaps I’ll start the novel tomorrow. . .
    Wonderful story at the end. Well worth repeating for new readers like me.

    • chichikir says:

      Thanks for your comment. I totally agree with you. In fact I’ll add that anyone who finishes any kind of novel deserves an applause. You have every right to feel a sense of achievement after writing so many words on your posts. Keep on writing, the reward is great 🙂

  44. P.S. Meant 100,000 words NOT novels in comment above!

  45. Roshni says:

    Thought provoking and meaningful. 🙂 Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.

  46. I certainly think novels will always be cherished…the problem is changing the mindset of the young generation (like my own!) who are techy, instant-gratificaton people who tend to like reading shorter snipets of literature rather than a long novel. I will always be a fan of the novel…the reward is so much better after the many pages of suspense.

    Courtney Hosny

    • chichikir says:

      I too prefer short novels to long ones. And if I happen to read a longer book I expect to be kept in suspense throughout the entire book rather than to have to skip pages due to boredom 😦

  47. andy says:

    Thank you for sharing ,i like nice post

  48. It’s true! Technology has not only allowed a great boom in people writing everything from novels, to poems, articles to one liners, but people who would read them. It’s like the tag line in the movie “Field of Dreams”, “If you build it, they will come.” – If you write it, they will read it!

  49. Pingback: Books, Books, and Books | Ramblings

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