Say it Out Loud! by Nevada McPherson

Bill JazzFestLet’s welcome back monthly columnist Nevada McPherson as she shares with us “Say it Out Loud!” Enjoy!

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Most writers know from the outset that this is a very solitary pursuit they’ve chosen, that there’s no other way to create than to spend long, often lonely hours at the keyboard or over a blank page, struggling to find just the right word, phrase or image.

On the other hand, if they’re driven to create, to write at all costs, sharing their vision with the world, perhaps some writers feel that this is a pursuit that’s chosen them, that they have no other option but to create.

Still other writers are never lonely when they are in the act of creating; they have their characters to keep them company, and their characters are like longtime friends with whom they enjoy spending time: hours, days, weeks. Years.

Perhaps for them finding just the right word, phrase or image isn’t a struggle but a joyous act of creation that leads to another creative adventure, then another, then another.

No matter what the temperament of the writer, no matter what his or her habits and methods involve, there is one thing all writers have in common: the urge to tell stories. The stories that they tell are their way of connecting with the world, of conjuring pictures, moods and feelings in other people (after all, as E.M. Forster once said: “Only connect.”)

How amazing is that? What a wonderful and magical thing.

There’s a step beyond even that which writers can take, however, and that is to take on the role of writer as speaker.

Writers write because they want to tell stories, but their own stories, their own journeys have tremendous value and that’s why speaking to readers, students, and other writers is important as a way to connect to others.

In my own experience, it was through the spoken word that I discovered volumes about the written word.

As I’ve mentioned in some of my previous posts, listening to Garrison Keillor’s radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, when I was in high school and then college, was my introduction to many writers and poets that up until then I’d never heard about. I still listen to the show, the visiting writers, and still appreciate Keillor’s humorous insights about the pleasures and pains of the writing process.

It was on another radio show that I first heard a reading of Joyce Carol Oates’ famous (and chilling) short story, “Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?” and a few years later when I heard her speak at L.S.U., I gained a great deal of insight about how writers think about their work.

The first question she was asked was “What’s the meaning of the numbers on the side of Arnold Friend’s car?” Her refusal to answer the question said something to me about the role of the reader and critic in relation to the writer. Experiences like this I share with my students, and they in turn share their experiences of reading this story and others, and what it means to them.

All the writing, screenwriting and literary conferences I’ve attended have added to my writing education, and the panels where people disagreed about certain issues, or engaged in lively, mostly good-natured debate are especially memorable.

One of my favorite writers, Henry Miller (author of Tropic of Cancer and many other books), and Beat muse Neal Cassady (inspiration for Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road) may not have had lots in common — or maybe they did in some ways.

What do you think?

One thing they both valued above all were the people who were “mad to talk.”

When writers talk and when muses and readers join in the conversation, anything can happen. People get inspired, angry, happy or sad, but they feel, (i.e. they connect!)

If you get the opportunity to talk about your writing, to speak to students or a writer’s group, take it! Even if you’re a confirmed introvert and speaking in front of people (or doing a radio interview) is far out of your comfort zone, there’s much your listeners will learn from you. Also, you’ll learn much from the questions they ask.

More about that next time! Until then—happy writing!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Originally from Georgia, Nevada McPherson lived in New Orleans for many years and now lives with her husband Bill and rescue Chihuahua, Mitzi in Milledgeville, Georgia, where she is a professor of Humanities at Georgia Military College. Nevada received a BA in English/ Creative Writing and an MFA in Screenwriting from L.S.U. She’s written over a dozen feature-length screenplays, one short screenplay, a short play, short stories and two graphic novels, Uptowners and Piano Lessons.

For more information about Nevada and her projects, visit www.nevada-mcpherson.com.

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