The simplest definition of a sentence is it must have a ‘who’ and a ‘what’.
The cat sat. Who sat? The cat. The cat what? Sat.
I think the same definition could apply to the purpose of life. We must be able to answer ‘who?’ and ‘what?’.
Who am I? Who do others think I am?
What am I about? What is my purpose?
My biggest ‘what’ is that I am a writer. And the key is that verbs are doing words, as in they have to be engaged with, otherwise the sentence is no longer correct.
If the cat ceased to sit, as in it walked away, the sentence no longer represents reality.
If I cease to write, I no longer can call myself a writer. But like a cat, I am always drawn back to that sunny spot by the window where it can contemplate the meaning of life or whatever the fuck cats think about. They are the Buddhist Monks of our world, or at least my cat is. She is stoic and I’m sure has life figured out. She just won’t tell me. Which frustrates me. But I digress.
Writing is not a simple act. It never has been. We are not genetically wired to read or write. Speaking, yes, listening yes, communicating with others, yes, but not writing.
Writing is a marvellous invention. Those first cave paintings from 17,000 years ago, either in north-east Kimberly or in the Lascaux Caves in the south-west of France, are early attempts of telling a story—something we have been doing since ‘we’ became Homo-Sapiens.
The thing about these drawings is they can tell the story even if the story-teller isn’t physically there. The story lives.
And that is the beauty of writing. ‘I’, as the storyteller, aren’t with you, the ‘reader’. And yet, you are hearing my words in your head.
The written word, or drawing, can communicate ideas across both time and space. We, many many years ago, invented time-travel. The only downside to this form of it is the writer doesn’t get to go along for the ride. I can appreciate Shakespeare’s words, but he is still as dead as his neighbour.
On how this ability came to use, Abby Smith Rumsey, in ‘When We Are No More’, writes:
But there was nothing accidental or unnatural about the invention of writing in Mesopotamia. It had to have come naturally to us, because writing was invented multiple times and in multiple places. The Egyptians, Chinese, and Mesoamericans each developed writing systems of astounding complexity and ingenuity quite independently of each other.
It many have been inevitable that we were to ‘invent’ writing, but it still is not something we grasp easily. It needs to be a learnt skill.
And with any skill, there are the fundamentals and then there are the minute details that separate the greats from the rest of us. There is no difference between what I am learning compare to what some of my students are learning. And for some of them, they struggle to read CVC words such as 'cat' and 'sat'. It is all learning something we aren't wired to do.
My verb, my ‘what’, requires diligent effort. I keep coming back to the need to write every day. Not every word is going to survive the editing phase, but I will get better at being a writer.
Which, for me, means being a better human.