Saturday, July 17, 2010

Dangerous Places

By Keith N Fisher

I was a carpenter for several years in my younger days. I loved the aspect of standing back at the end of the day and gazing on the fruits of my labors. I could stare at the walls I’d built with gratification in a job well done. Later, as a designer of homes, I took great satisfaction in looking at those houses. I still do.

There was one part of being a carpenter, however, I found distasteful. Walking on the top of a 2x4 wall. I began my apprenticeship with a man who used ladders to attach top plating. For the most part, we used ladders to set joists too, although psychologically, hanging joists was easier.

Like joists, setting roof trusses isn’t as bad as top plating, because you have the truss to hold on to. Being a little afraid of heights is a draw back when you’re standing eight feet above the floor below. Then, you have to squat or bend to hammer a nail. It wasn’t until I went to work for another contractor that walking walls became mandatory.

As my career went forward I tried to put it out of my mind. I fell off a roof once, and I fell off ladders, but I never got brave enough to walk walls with abandon. Occasionally, I’d end up working with guys who poked fun at my cautiousness, but I gave back as well as I got. Through it all, though, I envied their confidence in high places.

One time, however, one of those guys was working beside me on the backside of a roof. We were building a house in the foothills with a ground floor at street level, but on the backside, there was a forty-foot drop from the roof to the ground below.

My friend stood up from a squat and momentarily lost his balance. He stumbled backward, toward the edge. I reached out to catch him but he righted himself with that marvelous balance he had. He made light of it, but I saw fear in his eyes.

As writers we promote our career in blogs and other venues. We have a unique opportunity to express ourselves. Sometimes it’s political, other times it’s religion. Often times we use our craft to say things we perhaps shouldn’t. The danger is there, even though we sometimes don’t recognize it for what it is.

We sit back in our righteous indignation, spewing forth. We take pride in having people agree with us, and we don’t stop to consider our words. Words can be like muddy boots on a 2x4 wall they might not make you slip and fall, but they could.

It doesn’t matter how many people agree, what we have written or said is out there for anyone and everyone to see. It resides on the Internet forever. What if in the future, you submit your manuscript to an editor who read what you wrote, and had a different opinion than you? It’s all in the past, right? Many people agreed with you then, but the editor, who probably wasn’t an editor at the time, took offense to what you said. Now, there’s a price to pay.

Writers have the ability to create worlds. To sway minds for good or evil. We walk walls with confidence, when perhaps caution is warranted. Even a carefully crafted blog or group comment can come back and bite you. You could fall off.

Think carefully and choose words with caution. Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

PS Check out my review of Leaning into the Curves by Nancy Anderson and Carroll Hofeling Morris. Click on the book cover


Ann Best said...

We do have to be careful what we say, and especially what we write. Unless we can delete/tear up the words, they are there for others to see. Throughout my long life I've learned the power and danger of words. I'm finally more cautious! Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

Jolene said...

Great post! My husband and I built two houses together. He walks with ease on the 2x6 walls (it's cold up here) and the 2x4. I'm okay with 2x6 but no way on those skinny ones! It's funny, because if they were on the ground, you wouldn't think twice. I get scared about my writing when I send it out there, not when it's sitting on my computer.
But where's the fun in that?

L.T. Elliot said...

Excellent, wise words. (And I'm terrified of heights too! Remind me to tell you about my Grand Canyon mule sometime. You'll get a kick out of it.)

So glad to read your delightful words. I've missed you.

Evelyn Campbell Curtis said...

I've been on both sides of your story. I've walked without caution, with my words, and I wrote the wrong thing. After a few of those times, I wised up, and I thought a little bit longer and harder about what I was about to make public.

You can delete those words, and you can tear them up, but when it has been read, the damage has been done. Good reminder!