I started my morning today with Kurt Vonnegut and a cup of coffee. I’ve been a fan of Kurt Vonnegut since high school. I cried the night he passed away. I think he wrote about the world in a way that was true enough to be illuminating, but gentle (and funny) enough to be palatable. A modern Mark Twain. So I was excited when I heard that a book of his personal letters would be published, and I’ve been reading it, and taking my time with it, this week.
Titled just Letters, the collection is vivid Vonnegut. Witty, self-deprecating, and sarcastic, but also kind and insightful. There are introductions and notes throughout the book by Dan Wakefield, who knew Vonnegut personally, that provide context, and it’s so fun to read Vonnegut’s thoughts on his books while they were in progress. He spends time on other topics, as well (politics and world events, his family and friends, his career), though I’ve enjoyed his thoughts on writing the most. He was as sharp in his personal letters as he was in his published works.
Reading Letters this week, I now firmly believe people don’t write enough anymore. The truth is, I was appalled when I learned that “tl;dr” was a thing. What do you mean, “too long; didn’t read?” If you took the time to write something for me to read, then I’d read it, because that’s what respectful people do. And if I wrote something for you to read, I would be careful to say only what I needed to say, because that’s what good writers do. William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White told me so.
What I’m getting at here is that writing is important. Writing, even just letters to family and friends, helps you find your voice. Once you’ve found it, you’ll feel comfortable and confident expressing what you have to say. It’s true that everyone has an opinion, but if you can express yours coherently, persuasively, and ultimately in a voice that is true to who you are, you’ll rise above the noise and you’ll be heard. Finding your voice gives you power. So do it! Write notes on napkins. Write a few quick lines about your day before you crawl into bed. Write a letter to your mom – I’m serious, Mother’s Day is coming up.
Or, if you’re crazy like me, write a novel that keeps you awake at night like a screaming baby.