Treasures And Great Writers
If you’ve never been able to construct complete coherent sentences in a logical order with the end result being something that people enjoy reading then you might not understand where this submission is going. It’s a skill. To some it comes
naturally, perhaps gleaned from the sub conscience while reading the writings of others or perhaps from a keen ear listening to others talk. Words start flowing and interesting things are being put to word and wow this must be a good feeling.
For the rest of us writing comes from a great amount of hard work. We learn from the time we’re wee tots practicing our letters on our writing tablets to hours upon hours spent on a dissertation going no where as the sun threatens to peek
over the horizon before you finally make it to bed.
I’ll be honest, when I read some submissions or posts in forums I often have to pinch myself to stay awake. Why? Often the material is interesting but the presentation of the material is so poorly done that it’s a real chore to make it to paragraph two without some no-doze, and this is assuming the writer was nice enough to divide up the 5000 word ramble into some logical blocks of text we could classify as a paragraph. At least at this site we can usually be guaranteed the topic will be something we hold interest in, which of course is Thailand. Still, I’d hate to be the one editing all the submissions and cleaning up the text and trying to make submissions presentable. My hats off to Stick for what must be a unlimited pool of patience and niceness in which he can draw from at will when necessary.
Writing has always been an important part of my vocation whether it’s been after action reports or personal evaluations while in the military to explaining to my editors why I’m sending them this picture. Actually, the picture is supposed to support the words but there you go – a difference in style. This might be why my pictures are more important for me to get right than the words, as a good picture is worth a 1000 words or so the saying goes, and the least amount of words I need to write explaining the picture the less time I need to spend in front of the keyboard when I’d much rather be behind the lens. There’s an incredible amount of power in both the words and the image, and that leaves your personal style to decide where the emphasis lays. In truth both words and images take a special skill to capture a readers attention, which is why both together make getting the information out a lot easier. And.. why an image/picture that can stand on it’s own with no words is very hard to do, as are words on their own. Life is that way I suppose.
Damn! I was sitting here in the right frame of mind for writing, a part I’ve yet to get to, and the phone rings and the thoughts once cogent and organized in my mind are now scattered to the wind. I need to get more into this..
You see.. when I ‘must’ write because of a deadline or some other time sensitive reason and it ‘must’ be “decent” writing.. then I try and organize my thoughts when I first have them. If I don’t the phone rings, my wife asks me what color of washcloth I’d prefer in the bathroom, security calls and wants to know if I could accept the pizza for the guy three floors down from me.. something happens to jumble my thoughts! So, I write down a title that might or might not be a title I’ll go with (in the way of a heading, catch line, whatever depending on what I’m writing), then I’ll jot down my first thoughts of the material I want to cover with 5-6 lines separating them, and then go back and fill in the lines with sub topics or thoughts for each major thought. If I’m really lucky I’ll get all of this down before my first interruption. If I do then I’ll sit there and think about the topics/thoughts and then number them (not necessarily in the order already listed) in the order that makes the most logical sense.. and then go through one more time and sub-order them in a way that makes the most emotional sense/impact. In the end I’ll have to ponder any of these that don’t match up. But now that things are down on paper the phone can ring, your crazy Uncle Al can buzz your Instant Messenger until you throw the speakers across the room, or you parrot decides to practice the theme song from Rocky, and you can always go back to the list after a few valium and pick up where you left off.
That’s one way. The other way of writing is what I really look forward to and I save my most special assignments and projects for these relatively few moments. This is when you get some time to yourself, the thoughts write themselves down in your mind, the logic and reasoning flows without effort, and you might get that little tug in the back of your throat as you start writing about something special to you. It’s almost like the perfect buzz that even the most experienced alcoholics have trouble maintaining without going too far into incoherency or staying too sober to let the creative juices flow. It’s like when writing music and you can hear that perfect tune in your head and it’s playing loud and clear and all you have to do is write the sheets before it disappears. Sometimes I think some of this site's most prolific writers must be the perfect drinkers who have mastered the art of the perfect buzz.
As I get older, and with the help of “auto fill” on Word I’ll often go back and check what I wrote and find words replaced for me that I didn’t want replaced, but proof reading I think is pretty helpful. None of this is where I was first heading though. I suppose I thought if I ignored it then the feeling would go away and I could get some sleep and be ready to handle tomorrow. I can’t ignore it though. It’s the call of the wild.. And I need to answer that call in the next 2-3 nights so I can finish up that next piece on photography I’ve been promising all of you.
I live a few hundred feet up in a hi-rise and standing out on the balcony I can hear the cars, trains, planes, and the calls to prayer like clockwork five times a day. I can also smell the fires from the food stalls and all the food (and other) smells that drift up here and after 2100 the live band playing less than half a click as the crow flies. All the lights of the city are right there and I take them all in with one big sweeping turn of my head and then back again and like Jack Sparrows broken compass my eyes seem to settle on where I know downtown Bangkok and the nightlife must be. The treasure! Bangkok crude, Thai gold, Asian tea.. what most of you come here for is less than a 15 minute taxi ride (not worth it trying to park downtown unless I’m going somewhere specific) and as I look off the balcony the images and sights from visits past run through my mind and I can actually feel that tingling a gambler gets as he enters a casino and the blackjack tables loom closer. The music from the bars fills my ears and the scent of the women my nostrils and without much effort at all I can feel a firm young thing sitting on my leg and hear those magic words “Where are you from?” “What is your work?” “Are you here on vacation?” “Where you stay?”
Then I shake my head and gather my senses and head back inside the condo for another glass of juice or whatever and wonder just how trusting my wife is to leave me here to my own devices for over three months now with another three before her return. It’s funny, I don’t go to the nightlife areas often at all, even when I was single maybe once a month I’d venture downtown and take in the sights. But now that I’m married and living the good life in Thailand I’ll go a bit more often knowing that after I get there and feel that thrill we all get.. that it will wear away and my eyes will allow me to see through the façade and games being played and that a short taxi ride later I’ll be home in the shower scrubbing the smell of smoke and only God knows what else off my body and then enjoy greeting her wherever she may be, in the bed asleep, the couch watching television, wherever.. and I know that my treasure has already been found as I see that big white smile of hers that is ever present when I return home. What every great hunter comes to Bangkok and other parts of Asia to find, I’ve already found. That one special Thai girl who really is “different” and whom I can trust and depend on and who always puts my needs and desires above her own.. making it impossible for me to not do the same in return. Yes, I suppose I’m missing her tonight.
But like Jack Sparrows broken compass there are times when the needle starts to quiver and the call of the wild fills your ears and tries to tell you that maybe there’s other treasures out there yet to be found. I don’t doubt it for a minute. With my wife on the other side of the world the compass can’t feel her presence as strong and after a long absence of nonuse the rusty needle breaks free and starts swinging from side to side only stopping when it’s zeroed in on the downtown area, letting me know there’s more treasure to be found. But I know the price and selling my soul for treasure isn’t part of what I signed up for. Davy Jones crew of mongers will have to look somewhere else.
Perspective. This is one of the greatest gifts of writing. Writing helps you put things in perspective and often reading your own words and feelings helps you see things more clearly. If you’re exceptionally gifted (of which I make no claim) it helps others see more clearly as well. Let me give you an example: A friend told me the other day (a friend in the states) that by reading the MSM (main stream media) she/he can actually know what it’s like to be in Lebanon at this current time and feel what the Lebanese must be feeling as the bombs drop, or what it feels like to be an Israeli down in a bomb shelter waiting for one of the 200 rockets that will land and explode in the next 24 hours. That she knew what it felt like to walk through the killing fields in Cambodia or smell the dead and dying along the beaches days after the tsunami wiped out the beaches along the gulf. She / he knew what it was like to be a US Marine in Iraq riding down the street in an unarmored Humvee on the lookout for IED’s or the medic who patched up what he could when they missed one.
A sad fact of life is that the MSM is the closest most westerners ever get to seeing the real world (or non-westerners get to ours), and that even when you see it with your own eyes you can’t understand what you’re seeing until you know the language and understand the culture and that’s not going to happen without several years of experience, if you’re sharp perhaps accumulated over several places and visits. We (westerners) only see what our MSM wants us to see and I think most of us are sophisticated enough to know the MSM is profit driven.. so what they want us to see is what will bring the most viewer/readership and hence the most profits, and not just profits for the MSM but it’s associated corporations and ventures financed by those who have purchased television networks, newspapers, and websites.. Like sheep to slaughter we are easily led down the path of misinformation despite our best intentions, mostly because it’s human nature to only see what we want to see and to ignore that which we don’t. If it can’t fit it into a 5 second sound/video bite then chances are it will go unnoticed in much of the western world.
So my friend asked: “Short of giving up my life as I know it and traveling the world for a lifetime, how can I ever really understand both sides of an issue or even one side accurately?” My answer is always the same. It’s damn difficult. If we have a particular subject we’ve very interested in we can research it for months and have a better understanding, but nothing prepares us for actually being there. Example: Say you’re going for a masters degree in sociology and your thesis is on prostitution. You work on this thesis for close to two years, research the hell out of it, and then write all about it. Is it possible to really understand prostitution without experiencing “time on the scene?” What it feels like to get your first ‘happy ending’ at a massage place, first short time experience, etc? Or know what it feels like to be the prostitute without feeling that first customer climb on top, take your first pay, or try to hide what you’re doing from your family? I don’t think it is. There’s no substitute for actually living an experience. Academics (of which I’ve spent my time being) are largely clueless on real life. On the other hand the people actually living the experience aren’t privy to the statistics and studies and polls and the such that the academics have. They each have subsets of information, but no complete picture yet. And the locals being portrayed in the MSM, the ones actually experiencing the lives we watch on the news.. are for the most part less knowledgeable “overall” than the westerners watching the broadcasts.
What answer is there then? How does one really get the best picture? I remember back when I was a lad, before 2.3 televisions in every home and 150 channels on every cable.. we used to read. I read a lot. What I noticed was that there were writers, and there were great writers. But the great writers, the masters, the ones who lived the experience through real life living, interviews, research, the entire ball of wax, AND has the skills to put his/her observations down on paper, are very few and far between. Unfortunately, great writers are a dying breed. The talented individuals are all trying to land that anchor position or other high paying gig and that leaves only the very talented and financially unmotivated. The writers that can not only give you the information but also make your pulse rise with the excitement, smell and taste the environment, feel the emotions. Great writers are perhaps our most endangered species.
And this brings us full circle to the beginning of this submission. We don’t need to be masters to write well, but perhaps it’s not a bad thing to aspire to. I enjoyed reading long before I learned to enjoy writing. And I really do enjoy reading the submissions on this site and writing them. Two sides of the same coin. I especially enjoy writing for perspective. After putting down my thoughts on the subject of visiting the nightlight for example, I won’t be forgetting where the real treasure is as I make my way downtown and enjoy the sights, take some sample pics, and make sure Jack Sparrows compass’ needle doesn’t jump around too much.
Excuse me while I take another gander off the balcony..
Some submission writers have been pleasantly surprised at the number of emails they have received, the feedback they have received about their "issue" and have even gone on to make new friends. So if you have even the smallest inkling to knock something up, go ahead, do it!