A Chimera,Is merely that; it’s chimerical.A leap of faith,Is much more; it’s a miracle.Friends, please don’t look at me askance—Lean on my poetry, and may your words dance;May they be lovely ritornellos that prance—May they. Always.I will hold your hands as you sing,I’ll sing your words with you;Always.
~ Akram Ahmad (Free—as in “uncaged”—verses by a writer, blogger, software craftsman, son, husband, father, brother, and friend)
The Quotes 💞
Worlds are turning and we’re just hanging on
Facing our fear and standing out there alone
A yearning, and it’s real to me
There must be someone who’s feeling for me
Things look so bad everywhere
In this whole world, what is fair?
We walk blind and we try to see
Falling behind in what could be 🏃
~ Steve Winwood (Lyrics from Higher Love)
The measure of artistic merit is the length to which a writer is willing to go in following his own compulsions 🏄
~ John Updike
I will remember you
Will you remember me?
Don’t let your life pass you by
Weep not for the memories 🐹
~ Sarah McLachlan (Lyrics from I Will Remember You)
It is personalities, not principles, that move the age 👰
~ Oscar Wilde
Not all those who wander are lost 🐥
~ J. R. R. Tolkien (from the poem “All that is gold does not glitter” in The Lord of the Rings)
How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?
~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (in the words of the enduring sleuth, Sherlock Holmes)
As we near yet another scene, an animated dialog is taking place—between the readers of this blog—and we think twice about whether we ought to join the fray. We finally decide, gulp, to dive right into the fray 🏊
First Reader: “Let me see if I got this right: This unrepentant blogger is back today with a third essay in this series?!”
Second Reader: “Looks like it.”
Blogger [eavesdropping on the conversation]: “This sounds good. I sure like engaged readers, nothing like having legions of engaged readers now. Hmm… Their use of the adjective ‘unrepentant’, though, didn’t quite sound all that complementary, come to think of it.”
First Reader: “Oh. My. God.”
Second Reader: “I can’t believe it. Doe he actually think that anyone is going to read a third essay when we were already done with his drivel, having barfed after several vain attempts to stomach his very first essay in the series. As for his second essay, oh well, it had sent some of us to the loo in fits of incontinence.”
Blogger: “Hmm… This isn’t sounding complementary at all. I wonder what gives?”
First Reader: “Yo, stop—too much information there, that talk of incontinence and all, you know!”
Second Reader: “Oops, sorry.”
Blogger: “Surely they can’t be talking there about the gems that are my essays, now could they. Could they?”
First Reader: “But you know what I’m saying, don’t you?”
Second Reader: “I do.”
Third Reader [joining the first two readers]: “All that this belligerent blogger’s got is a boatload of bravado and banality”
Chorus of Readers, sans Blogger: “Ho, ho, ho. These are the days of fixing-up the (Programming Digressions) blog—aye, and the blogger, too—for they surely are. Ho, ho, ho.”
First Reader: “On the first day we got comatose drivel—On Writing: Or Why I Write?“
Second Reader: “On the second day, moribund trash—On Writing: Or How I Write?“
Third Reader: “And on the third day, yet more junk—On Writing: Or, Wow I Write?“
Blogger: “Double gulp!”
First Reader: “Oh. My. God.”
Second Reader: “Where is that blogger? Let’s find him and teach him a lesson, shall we?”
Third Reader: “Let’s do it. But first, why don’t we rally more troops and show up in numbers when we get a hold of the persnickety pest of a blogger ?”
Blogger: “Triple gulp!”
First Reader: “Yeah.”
Second Reader: “Oh yeah, for sure.”
Third Reader: “Let’s be done with the tarred banality this blogger keeps sending our way, once and for all—let’s do it.”
Blogger: “I’m outta here!”
Oh well. Meanwhile, we get to hear other talk, this time actually a plaintive plea—for a pattern language—coming to you courtesy of a (somewhat) penitent purveyor of ideas: your blogger 🏄
A Guide To The Fun We’ll Be Having 🎡
We have some ground to cover here—albeit to a lesser degree than the previous two essays in this grand series—because this essay is all about the joy and gestalt of writing. So let’s get started with a bird’s eye view of the sojourns we’ll hit during the upcoming excursion ⛷
- The Writer Is Never For Sale 💰
- The Cage Must Be Unlocked 📦
- Why Does A Writer Work So Hard? 🚂
- Who Stops You From Dreaming? 😴
- What Havoc Could Writing Wreak? 👰
- The Writer Should Be Like A Child 👧
- Write For Those Who Love Books 📖
- Beware The Myths That Surround The Writer 🐉
- Knead And Mold The Clay Of Words 👣
So I wasn’t joking when I had noted above that we have some ground to cover; not a whole lot, but substantial enough to warrant your packing some gear for the journey ⛺
Ready? Great! Let’s jump right into the excursion.
A Pattern Language 🎲
Having enjoyed working in the trenches of software design and development for over two decades now—and getting a kick out of it every day I wake up and go to work—I dream in software design patterns even when I’m awake, paradoxically enough. Go figure 😴
Yep, you knew where this is going: an introduction of sorts to a pattern language in which I’m going to mold what follows. No doubt, the genesis of the notion of a pattern language inasmuch as it applies to software design—rest assured that I’ll be introducing it shortly—can be traced back to the seminal book that rocked our industry a bit over two decades ago:
Design Patterns: Elements of ReuBut upsable Object-Oriented Software (Addison Wesley) by Gamma, E., R. Helm, R. Johnson, and J. Vlissides
And the way it rocked our software industry was right up there with a tsunami, albeit a benign one; a tsunami that nourished rather than demolished on whichever shores its waves crashed. In other words, it was a tide—albeit a massive one—that lifted all boats unlike any other that our industry had seen before 🌊
As to what I offer to you today, should you wish to take it, my inspiration comes from another source. It’s the one I cite below. In particular, my inspiration for marshaling a pattern language comes from a discussion of the aforementioned book (i.e. Design Patterns) in the pages of the gem that I now cite:
Plato and the Nerd: The Creative Partnership of Humans and Technology (The MIT Press) by Edward Ashford Lee
I hope you’ll enjoy the feast that I’ve prepared for you. I welcome you to carve—nay, dissect—the “pieces” of the feast (it’s not a pie, after all) along the lines of the pattern language that follows 🎃
The Pattern Language: Annotated
Here, then, is the pattern language in which I’ve cast each of the nine pieces that make up the bulk of this essay:
- Heading: A short description of what any given piece is about (Precisely so, yay!) 🎯
- My two cents’ worth: My editorial “wisdom” (You back there, stop snickering. Now!) 🎤
- Quotation: A quotation to lend texture to the discussion (Playing with word-painting) 🎨
- Picture: A picture with which to ground the narrative (This will be your ticket) 🎫
- Poem: A poem to wrap it up into a unified whole (Big gifts come in small packages) 🎁
I Had Also Wished To…
I had wished, too, to talk some—though considerations of time and space interfere with that at the moment—about the misguided myth that writing is somehow painful; nothing could be farther from the truth ⛵
Writing is anything but about pain. It is, truth be told, far closer to everything that I could’ve ever imagined the state of euphoria to be; and then some 🔏
Somehow, much to my chagrin, that myth about writing endures. On top of that, I may have unwittingly contributed to that myth—though hopefully in only the teensiest way. I feel strongly about how utterly misguided the notion is that writing is somehow about pain. It decidedly is not. And to the extent that I haplessly contributed to that myth, I’m that much livid with myself 😡
Indeed, as has been memorably noted by the great Persian poet Omar Khayyám in his Rubáiyát
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
My hope with this essay is that it’ll go some way toward bringing the pristine, untarnished—and unvarnished—truth about the gestalt of writing out into the light of the sun for it to gleam in 🌝
Just the other day, in fact, Mom was telling me that it’s interesting how—during Omar Kyayyam’s lifetime—he was better known as an astronomer and a mathematician. What a genius!
By the way, as Mom also pointed out to me, the Rubáiyát quatrain that I’ve quoted above is one which she (correctly) recognized as being from the Edward FitzGerald translation 🎯
But I digress 🚶
Hey, you should give your blogger at least one digression in any given essay. You do? Yay!
What I’m Really Talking About
What I’m referring to above—in ruefully noting how I might have unwittingly contributed to the silly mystique that writing is a painful process—is my having quoted (groan, on several occasions) the following stark observation by George Orwell:
Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane 💠
~ George Orwell, from “Why I Write” (in England Your England and Other Essays)
Whenever I have quoted Orwell, as I did above, my only goal has been—nothing less and nothing more—to make the more vivid for you how I find myself resonating with the theme that the art of writing is all passion. It’s about your inner writer (much as she inheres in you) urging you to let her breathe and thereby live through your act of writing 🐬
Please don’t snuff out a life 💡
Promise me you won’t? 🙏
I suppose that the one extenuating circumstance that comes to mind is when I had—in quoting Orwell an umpteenth time in my essays—added an accompanying note (such as the following one from an earlier essay), reflecting on how 😹
…I find myself resonating with this quote from George Orwell, though with nowhere near the acuteness which Orwell surely must have experienced when he divulged in “Why I Write” (England Your England and Other Essays)
All I was trying to do there (via the fateful quotation above) was simply this: Underscore the elemental role of passion in writing. Waah, what did I end up doing? 😭
Look—once and for all, plain and simple—the art of writing is all about joy, compassion, and passion. Above all, writing is about being of service to others. If anyone tells me that writing is about money or something like that, I’m going to clobber them over the head ⚓
Hey, hey, hey! Not to worry, though! I rattled off the “clobbering” image above metaphorically only—this is for all my literal-minded readers out there—to underscore how strongly I feel about this subject. Again, all that I said above (about “clobbering” and all) was in jest. Look, I’m decidedly pacifist, okay? All good? 😇
What Colors My Writing. Evermore.
Having introduced a pattern language—with which to decipher and decode the pieces of writing gestalt that’ll follow shortly—allow me to remind you of the real source of my inspiration that colors much of everything I do nowadays as a writer. Even more fundamentally, that source of inspiration informs just about everything I do nowadays as your fellow denizen of planet Earth 🎨
I think you know what I’m talking about, don’t you? Yes, I thought you did, thank you 🙇
As has been said, and very rightly so, that “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance”, it is equally true that “the price of finding your spark is eternal writing”; writing down the bones, if you will 💀
And Then The Words Ran Free
A confession first: My words have run free; at times I find myself drowning in the primordial ooze of creativity; imagine if you will how one simply has to rise to the surface ever so often lest one drown in the wondrous gifts with which creativity drenches—nay, inundates—the one who has found her muse 👑
Mind you, all that I said above, I said so unabashedly. At the same time, paradoxically enough, I ask of you to forgive me for some of the things that I say for some of the things that I find myself saying nowadays. Speaking of which, much of what I just said might not have made sense to you; some of it still doesn’t make sense to me 🙊
What I’ve trying to do in this “Interlude” is, to the best of my abilities—and hopefully with a modicum of success—to share something of the real source of inspiration that fuels me as a writer ⛽
I suppose—and there’s truth to the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words—I wish now to complement the “word-painting” above with some good old “picture-painting 🎨
How does that grab you? All good?
Great! Let’s go 🚕
A Tribute Of Sorts
So what I’ve next got for you is a tribute of sorts to the epicenter of my source of inspiration: It started out with the idea to arrange a bunch of books in a circle on the carpet in my living room—with the inspirational epicenter square center of course—and take a picture of the tangible collage that I was going to prepare ⛲
I carried out the plan above. So where are the results? That’s next 📣
The picture, which I snapped with my iPhone earlier this morning, is what you’ll see below 📷
What you’re about to witness through the picture below can be thought of as just that, a mere picture; one writer’s imagining of an embryonic collage, albeit one in gestation. Look, however you wish to look at it, I would like for you to please keep in your mind’s eye the idea of how the sun lies at the center of our solar system. Our digs, our solar system you know, complete with nine planets, including ours—planet Earth—circling around their source of energy (the sun) as they hurtle through space at enormous velocities 🌍
Now, as for the verses of rhyme that spontaneously came to my mind somewhere during a flash in the past 24 hours—which I later thought would nicely accompany the collage below—I somehow managed to scribble those verses down, yay! As they say, and dare I say it’s a Chinese proverb, that the faintest of inks is stronger than the strongest of memories 💪
You’ll find those verses of rhyme on the other side of the collage below 🚧
At the center of my universe I see something lie,
Defying mortality, it will never, ever die;
Written and fueled in equal parts by intellect and heart,
It dwells in my mind from where it surely will never depart;
Remember, as mortals, it’s for us to live and die,
I embrace that truth, it’s not for us to heave and sigh;
Take ashes away in a hearse or a cart or whatever plays the part,
All I know are the souls by my side, who around in my vision dart;
Poetic justice knows neither death nor will it on anyone impose,
It remains at peace: calm and unruffled in its beatific repose.
~ Akram Ahmad (Rhymed verses by a writer, blogger, software craftsman, son, husband, father, brother, and friend)
At The Epicenter Was…
And there you have star at the epicenter of my constellation—my super-special books of all time 📕 📘 📗 📙
My verses are obviously ground zero, both literally and metaphorically. Why did I say that? Here’s why: I used the word “metaphorically” because of the symbolism of the epicenter of a phenomenon and I used the word “literally” because of what I’m going to share next—writing greatness, the phenomenal Emily Dickinson whose poetry is light years more elevated than anything I could ever write in just as many light years. Note, too, some hints of the undercurrents of the Dickinson poem that follows; there’s more than a dash of how these verses of rhyme touch upon the centrality—think epicenter—of one’s object of attention, of one’s devotion. Thus it was that Dickinson had a story to tell of how
The soul selects her own society,
Then shuts the door;
On her divine majority
Obtrude no more.
Unmoved, she notes the chariot’s pausing
At her low gate;
Unmoved, an emperor is kneeling
Upon her mat.
I’ve known her from an ample nation
Then close the valves of her attention
~ Emily Dickinson (In XIII: EXCLUSION, from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson)
Now is that writing greatness or is that writing greatness?
With our brief foray into inspiration, writing, and writing greatness, we’re now ready to finally dive into the essay proper. Having said that what follows next is the essay proper does not, by the same token, relegate what came earlier to a state of being improper. At least I hope not!
1. The Writer Is Never For Sale 💰
My two cents’ worth: Through her writings, a writer sticks her neck out, knowing full well that her neck may well get wrung. But she is brave; she has to be bold. I hope that suffices to demonstrate the writer is never for sale. Ever 🎤
The writer’s genetic inheritance and her or his experiences shape the writer into a unique individual, and it is this uniqueness that is the writer’s only stuff for sale 🎨
~ James Gunn
Perhaps you’d like to buy a flower?
But I could never sell.
If you would like to borrow
Until the daffodil
Unties her yellow bonnet
Beneath the village door,
Until the bees, from clover rows
Their hock and sherry draw,
Why, I will lend until just then,
But not an hour more!
~ Emily Dickinson (In “Poem IV”, from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson) 🎁
2. The Cage Must Be Unlocked 📦
My two cents’ worth: The writer’s personal experience—is there even such a thing as an “impersonal” experience?—cannot be discounted; it simply cannot. Experience, when shared the way it ought to be—provided that justice has been done to its delivery—is way too elemental a force to remain stoppable or be prevented from going viral 🎤
I have a theory of my own about what the art of the novel is, and how it came into being… It happens because the storyteller’s own experience…has moved him to an emotion so passionate that he can no longer keep it shut up in his heart 🎨
~ Lady Murasaki
Lo! o‘er the city a tempest rose; and the bolts of the thunder
Smote the statue of bronze, and hurled in wrath from its left hand
Down on the pavement below the clattering scales of the balance,
And in the hollow thereof was found the nest of a magpie,
Into whose clay-built walls the necklace of pearls was inwoven.
Silenced, but not convinced, when the story was ended, the blacksmith
Stood like a man who fain would speak, but findeth no language;
All his thoughts were congealed into lines on his face, as the vapors
Freeze in fantastic shapes on the window-panes in the winter.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Selected Poems—Penguin Classics) 🎁
3. Why Does A Writer Work So Hard? 🚂
My two cents’ worth: The writer works this hard for the same reasons that parents give of themselves so freely—utterly—to their children 🎤
Writing isn’t generally a lucrative source of income; only a few, exceptional writers reach the income levels associated with the best-sellers. Rather, most of us write because we can make a modest living, or even supplement our day jobs, doing something about which we feel passionately. Even at the worst of times, when nothing goes right, when the prose is clumsy and the ideas feel stale, at least we’re doing something that we genuinely love. There’s no other reason to work this hard, except that love 🎨
~ Melissa Scott
The writer of this legend then records
Its ghostly application in these words:
The image is the Adversary old,
Whose beckoning finger points to realms of gold,
Our lusts and passions are the downward stair
That leads the soul from a diviner air;
The archer, Death; the flaming jewel, Life;
Terrestrial goods, the goblet and the knife;
The knights and ladies, all whose flesh and bone
By avarice have been hardened into stone;
The clerk, the scholar whom the love of pelf
Tempts from his books and from his nobler self.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Selected Poems—Penguin Classics) 🎁
4. Who Stops You From Dreaming? 😴
My two cents’ worth: By way of a one-word answer—nobody. Nobody in the world but you has the right to decide your dreams for you. Nobody but you. Listen to your loved ones as you absolutely should; they care for you, they truly do. Listen, too, to your friends; they often mean well. But when it comes time to calling the shots on what you’ll dream of, it’s all on one individual: you 🎤
Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not 🎨
~ George Bernard Shaw
Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
Darkness there, and nothing more.
Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore!”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word “Lenore!”
Merely this, and nothing more.
~ Edgar Allan Poe (The Raven) 🎁
5. What Havoc Could Writing Wreak? 👰
My two cents’ worth: Before you take the plunge into writing—and I encourage you to dive feet first into the waters of writing—do remember that only good things can happen. Enough said 🎤
Reading and weeping opens the door to one’s heart, but writing and weeping opens the window to one’s soul 🎨
~ M. K. Simmons
Soul, wilt thou toss again?
By just such a hazard
Hundreds have lost, indeed,
But tens have won an all.
Angels’ breathless ballot
Lingers to record thee;
Imps in eager caucus
Raffle for my soul.
~ Emily Dickinson (In “III: ROUGE ET NOIR”, from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson) 🎁
6. The Writer Should Be Like A Child 👧
My two cents’ worth: If you wish to attain writing goodness, emulate the masters of writing; should you aspire to writing greatness, emulate children in what they do. On a regular basis. Every single day. No exceptions 🎤
I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten—happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another 🎨
~ Brenda Ueland
It was many and many a year ago,In a kingdom by the sea,That a maiden there lived whom you may knowBy the name of ANNABEL LEE;And this maiden she lived with no other thoughtThan to love and be loved by me.I was a child and she was a child,In this kingdom by the sea:But we loved with a love that was more than love—I and my ANNABEL LEE—With a love that the winged seraphs of HeavenCoveted her and me.
~ Edgar Allan Poe (Annabel Lee) 🎁
7. Write For Those Who Love Books 📖
My two cents’ worth: Write for yourself, and of course for those who love to read. Nothing less, nothing more, and you’ll come out ahead 🎤
Children read books, not reviews. They don’t give a hoot about critics 🎨
~ Isaac Bashevis Singer
At evening when the lamp is lit,
Around the fire my parents sit;
They sit at home and talk and sing,
And do not play at anything.
Now, with my little gun, I crawl
All in the dark along the wall,
And follow round the forest track
Away behind the sofa back.
There, in the night, where none can spy,
All in my hunter’s camp I lie,
And play at books that I have read
Till it is time to go to bed.
These are the hills, these are the woods,
These are my starry solitudes;
And there the river by whose brink
The roaring lions come to drink.
I see the others far away
As if in fire-lit camp they lay,
And I, like to an Indian scout,
Around their party prowled about.
So, when my nurse comes in for me,
Home I return across the sea,
And go to bed with backward looks
At my dear land of Story-books.
~ Robert Louis Stevenson (in “The Land of Story-books”, from A Child’s Garden Of Verses — Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers) 🎁
8. Beware The Myths That Surround The Writer 🐉
My two cents’ worth: Here be dragons. Slay them or learn to live with your demons, at your own peril of course 🎤
Beware of self-indulgence. The romance surrounding the writing profession carries several myths: that one must suffer in order to be creative; that one must be cantankerous and objectionable in order to be bright; that ego is paramount over skill; that one an rise to a level from which one can tell the reader to go to hell. These myths, if believed, can ruin you. If you believe you can make a living as a writer, you already have enough ego 🎨
~ David Brin (and not Sergey Brin)
Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,
Grew lean while he assailed the seasons;
He wept that he was ever born,
And he had reasons.
Miniver loved the days of old
When swords were bright and steeds were prancing;
The vision of a warrior bold
Would set him dancing.
Miniver sighed for what was not,
And dreamed, and rested from his labors;
He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot,
And Priam’s neighbors.
Miniver mourned the ripe renown
That made so many a name so fragrant;
He mourned Romance, now on the town,
And Art, a vagrant.
~ Edwin Arlington Robinson (Miniver Cheevy) 🎁
9. Knead And Mold The Clay Of Words 👣
My two cents’ worth: Go out of your way to find out how Emily Dickinson writes. Your clay, the raw material with which you work—the words with which you paint your prose and poetry—may well get transmuted into birds that take flight, transfigured birds that soar heavenward 🎤
Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of a void, but out of chaos; the materials must in the first place be afforded; it can give form to dark, shapeless substances, but cannot bring into being the substance itself 🎨
~ Mary Shelley
Of all the souls that stand create
I have elected one
When sense from spirit files away,
And subterfuge is done;
When that which is and that which was
Apart, intrinsic, stand,
And this brief tragedy of flesh
Is shifted like a sand;
When figures show their royal front
And mists are carved away,—
Behold the atom I preferred
To all the lists of clay!
~ Emily Dickinson (In “Poem I: CHOICE”, from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson) 🎁