As writers, I believe we all have a habit of being analytical. Taking things we see or hear and rolling them over and over in our minds, until we’ve figured it out to our satisfaction. For example, some people may see a quote on a wall plaque or carved into a decorative stone and read it with a dismissive smile. But that isn’t always the case with writers. A writer will read the quote and question what the quote was trying to say. If it piques the writer’s interest, she or he will hold on to it and use it as inspiration, as I did earlier this week.
“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about.” —Benjamin Franklin
I recently came across this quote sitting on an examination table, draped in a lovely paper gown, waiting for my doctor (It’s amazing where inspiration shows up) and I spent the rest of the day analyzing what Mr. Franklin was trying to say.
First I started with, “Write something worth reading.” Common sense, right? As writers, why would we dedicate all the time and effort that goes into writing a book if we didn’t think it was worth reading? But I think the challenge is to recognize the difference between what we think is worth reading, versus what is truly worth reading.
Recently, I wrote a book that I felt was worth reading. I pitched it at conference, I submitted to agents and editors and this is what I found out. It’s not worth reading . . . YET! I had a publisher tell me she enjoyed the book. She liked the premise, she liked the characters, but the writing wasn’t quite strong enough. Those dreaded words every writer loathes to hear.
Of course that wasn’t the way I wanted this to go, but instead of being discouraged, (okay, I was a little discouraged) I decided to take joy in knowing a publisher actually read my book and found things about it she liked. If I keep learning, eventually the writing will be strong enough and hopefully one day it will be, as Mr. Franklin said, “something worth reading!”
Then I moved on to the next portion of his quote—“Or do something worth writing about.” For me, this seemed more challenging than writing a worthy book. When I first read it I said to myself, “Dang! You better write a good book because you’ll probably never do something worth writing about.” You see, I live a very serene life. It’s calm, (most of the time) and pretty uneventful. I certainly haven’t changed the world like Benjamin Franklin did with his experiments on electricity.
Then I took some time to really reflect (analyze) what he was saying. I may never be mentioned in a history book, but is this the only way we can do something worth writing about? I guess it depends on how we choose to look at it.
For example: My daughter and I are very close and I’m always giving her advice on one thing or another, like mothers do. Every once in a while she will thank me or say something nice about me on her Facebook page that makes me smile and feel all warm and fuzzy inside. When my son was eight, he had to write a school paper on his family. He wrote that his Mom had a way of making things better when things hurt. Of course these things are not history book worthy, but my children did write something about me. Would that fall into the category of, “Do something worth writing about?” I think for me, it does. It makes me want to do more things my children will want to write about.
Thanks, Ben Franklin for this inspiring quote. I will take it with me and strive for it often.
Did his quote inspire you as it did me? What side of the quote will you strive for? Why not both?
Remember to dream big!