- Wed, June 08 2011
- Filed under: Writing
As every writer knows, one of the great crashing disappointments in life is taking the epic vision of your imagination and trying to set it to paper, where it becomes a few shriveled, insubstantial words on a page. This happens to me pretty much every day. Including this morning. There’s a cathedral in my mind but just an inkblot on my notepad.
If you work for a good cause, you probably have the same sad sense of creative diminishment. You are doing amazing, life-transforming things in the world—you’ve built dozens of cathedrals of the imagination - but trying to put that work into an appeal or a web page or a tagline feels so small. People should be rapt, but the words somehow don’t deliver.
The temptation is to solve the problem with superlatives and statistics. Go on and on, and talk about everything. That seems big and bound to have an impact. But don’t be fooled: massive problems and large numbers have the smallest impact of all.
Here’s my advice, which I daily tell myself to follow. Start not with the cathedral but one person within it. The way out of the creative block that comes with trying to express big ideas is to tell the story of one soul. People relate more to each other than your cathedral anyway. Don’t despair over your failure to capture every aspect of what you do; just show one person who was changed because of your efforts. It’s far easier to write, and it will loom larger than you could ever imagine.