Saturday, April 17, 2010

Some Thoreau thoughts

Last night I went to see a play, "The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail." My wife designed the costumes for the play -- yes, both she and I work in "creative" fields. Woe to our bank account! -- and I wanted to get a look at them before the play closed. They looked great, of course. They always do.

The play, though, got me thinking about what we all do for a living. Why did you get into writing? Did you want to make a difference? Did you want to make people think? Did you want to entertain people, make them smile or cry or shout?

I know that's what motivated me to write. But I've lost sight of this as I scramble to make enough money to pay the bills in this dismal national economy.

"The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail" details the long evening when Henry David Thoreau, the famed writer, poet and, of course, tax resister, spent in jail for not paying his taxes. What struck me was Thoreau's conviction to make a difference, to have an impact on his world. It's what inspired him to leave behind his idyllic life at Walden Pond and re-enter the human race.

Now, I'm certainly no Henry David Thoreau, and my house is no Walden Pond. But as I've concentrated on pounding out the content stories, and the regular paychecks they produce, I've left behind much of the writing that inspired me, and, I hope, the people who read them. So, I'm making this resolution: I will continue to churn out meaningless content stories to keep my bank account full enough. But I won't forget to write the stories, too, that represent real journalism, the stories that require me to actually talk to people who have something important to say.

Earlier this month, I wrote a story about grooms who are doing just as much to plan their weddings as are their future brides. This isn't earth-shattering stuff. But it means something. Someone might read that story, maybe a groom who isn't pulling his weight on the wedding planning, and make a change. Maybe that lazy groom will order the wedding invitations so that his stressed bride-to-be doesn't have to. Whatever, a story can make a difference, even a small one.

A content story? Not really. Remember that: Content is for money, purely. Real stories, they're for money, too, of course, but they're for something else, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment