Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Writing for Resonance

          Have you seen, perhaps at a craft fair or a store selling tools for meditation, this kind of "singing bowl" from Tibet? Made of brass, this bowl will produce a resonant, melodic hum when tapped with a thick wooden stick, which you then lightly drag along the bowl's rim to enhance the reverberations. The quality of the sound depends not only on the bowl's material and form, but also on the tapping technique. I've watched shoppers at craft fair booths send sounds reverberating past their closed eyes and beatific smiles, while others shrug at the dull, short clang their strike produced, and then set down the bowl with a "why-would-anyone-buy-that?" kind of look. 


My point is this: resonance results from solid, high-quality materials; patient, persistent practice of the proper technique; a graceful touch; and respect for the creative process and all that goes into producing beauty (from the bowl maker to the merchant to the consumer to the listening bystander).


          Producing resonant words depends upon similar qualities:

  • solid, high-quality vocabulary from which to launch the "singing" literary works
  • figurative tools of expression to carve intricate designs into the surfaces of words
  • clear concepts and images, and a balanced form from which to launch them
  • earnest, methodical writing practice
  • continual revision and refining to improve the beauty of our words'  echoes 
  • mindfulness about the intended listeners'/readers' perceptions, as well as our own
  • attentiveness to valuable feedback from those who might want to hear more
  • control of our volume via the power and location of our strikes (in social settings and social media platforms) to reach the widest possible audience
  • joy felt, and shared, in the process of creating resonant word pictures.

So, even if we writers have employed all of the qualities for resonant words, and have earned high praise from other writers and literate readers, why is it that some editors and readers still shrug at our words when we long for them to smile beatifically? Again, I think of the shopper's approach to the Tibetan singing bowl. If he's only looking at the bowl because he's trying to act polite to the vendor who made eye contact with him while holding out the bowl and the stick, then he will never appreciate the resonance meant for open minds and ears. He is only passing by on his way to a specific booth offering exactly the kind of craft he has on his shopping list. He is like the editor who has no intention of considering any writing for publication other than the type he has in mind as he peruses his mail. If a work doesn't fit his predetermined needs, he rejects it with the same forced politeness he used while skimming the surface of the piece as a friendly shopper (editor) should. In short, the shrug and the "why-would-anyone-buy-that" look in response to our words may have nothing to do with their inherent resonance; closed minds simply ignore what they have no interest in buying. 

          Writers of memorable words: Remember that editors, and readers in general, are shoppers. Some of them are open to discovering new treasures to fulfill their needs--and possibly even to redefine those needs. Others only seek what's on their predetermined shopping lists. We writers need to shrug off the shrugs and keep tapping the bowls of creative energy.