Monday, June 28, 2010

Looking for meaning

I’ve been going through one of my periodic career crises, when I wonder what I do exactly and why and whether it makes any difference to anyone, including me. Even while these events are happening, though, I write. I can’t help it. It’s what I do and ironically it’s also what triggers my question: isn’t there some other way to earn a living?

But as I say, I keep writing.

Then, when I was scrawling my Julia Cameron-mandated morning pages yesterday, I made a spelling error. I write, I wrote. I write. Then, I wright.

It looked wrong.

And no wonder. A wright is a person who creates things, fixes them.

Wheelwright, cartwright, shipwright, millwright…

Me…well, I create things. Heck, I create people. I compile information and events into pages and reams of stories and then I fix them and fix them some more.

So I wondered: Does write come from wright? Is it the Old English version of lite from light?

My Nelson Canadian dictionary says not. Wright comes from the Old English werg – work.

According to the Oxford English dictionary, write is from the same language, different root. Writan: to scratch, as in to score into wood or stone.

So which do I do? Conventional wisdom says that every story is a variation of one of very few (seven or ten or fourteen, depending on your source) basic plots; the differences lie in setting or period or other such details. If that’s true, then storytellers don’t create anything new, but you could say we fix, adjust, adapt the tales for different audiences. So that still makes us wrights and as anyone who has ever put pen to paper or two fingers to a keyboard will attest, scratching out a living as a writer sure feels like work.

Good thing it also feels, uh, right.