“There is [no] taxing of the scribe. He does not have dues. So take note of this.” – Reminder of the Scribe’s Superior Status, translated by William Kelly Simpson
When I first wrote this blog post I had dropped the ball on posting regularly. I smirked when I found it again because I dropped the ball again. Back then I was dealing with discouragement and an illness, while this time it’s taking care of my etsy store, a chapbook (a small book of poetry about 50 pages or fewer), and feeling overwhelmed by it all. My inspiration isn’t lacking as much as lacking direction.
At the time of this blog I sat down to read Reminder of the Scribe’s Superior Status, which is a letter from one scribe to another who had left to work a “mundane” job. I can certainly relate to the feeling as can almost everyone right now. The passage quoted stuck with me. It’s a passage that reminds me of the value of my writing and my work, even though the passage is about tax-exemption of scribes (though I’m not sure how historically accurate that is). It showed me that even if my work was only important to me it was still important.
Words have power. Most of that power originates in what we put in them. It’s a part of the reason why people have the power to incite mobs or bind people in matrimony. It’s why trolling is so effective at times. I feel if more people understood the power behind words their conversations would reflect this more accordingly on websites like facebook. Absolutely everyone has some power when they can use language. A person who can use language responsibly is even more powerful.
I’ve slowly learned what this means for me and how it impacts my own writing. As a child I was diagnosed with a language disorder called cluttering. Basically it means my thoughts go faster than what I can express. It isn’t limited to mere speech disfluencies; it affects my writing (it’s illegible on an incredible scale, though with more access to computers I hear everyone’s writing quality declined), my ability to organize my thoughts (all suggestions to outline are, to me, a horrible punchline to an ill-conceived joke), if I don’t express a thought in a conversation at the moment I lose the thought altogether, and that’s assuming I use the correct words and speak clearly. Years of speech therapy made most of the speech problems and the way I vocalize things go away.
Writing, conversely, has proven a bigger, more frustrating challenge despite a BA in Creative Writing. I still don’t write concisely, grammatically correct, nor with clear semantics. It’s led to many misunderstandings and arguments because of what people read into my writings. I re-read, comb over every syllable, and clarify. It isn’t effective all the time and I learn from those experiences. Part of the examination of my words also comes with awareness of my ability and not just the ability of my words. I know if I’m not mindful and diligent my message fizzles. Faced with semantics, though, not everything with cluttering proves a stumbling block in my writing. It allows me more freedom for wordplay, more experimentation with puns and spoonerisms, proves advantageous to “stream of consciousness” style, and fun with meter. Combined with my degree cluttering adds another level and power to my writing.
Somehow with all of my abilities and disadvantages I manage to send a message to my audience. Sometimes it’s not always the message I want, but that’s out of my hands most of the time. Even if the message they receive isn’t the message I put forth I see how it inspires people. That inspiration means more to me than anything dollar could. If my writing inspires the reader to better themselves then I know my work is well done. I see the power of my words in action and that is part of how I define success.
Words are powerful because of the intent they carry. Words can also be wasted if jumbled together. Even when the words are haphazardly strung together some people find meaning in it. I find the quoted passage is relevant in that regard. I find it difficult to place a price on my writing because value extends beyond money. There’s the work itself that conveys something, the meanings interwoven into a piece, and the extent a piece impacts someone’s life. In that sense I feel writers may pay taxes on the monetary gains from their work but can never fully calculate the cost of their writings not only for the author but for the audience.