I was lucky enough recently to judge the weekly writing competition for marvellous writing site Hour of Writes. This is the editorial I wrote about the pleasures and challenges of the experience.
As I get older, I become more obsessed with time: how I spend it; how it seems to be spent for me by habits, obligations, demands, technologies, nervous tics. I worry that I am losing control of my moments.
I also turn to reading and writing more gratefully than ever, because there is something in the piercing concentration of written language that saves me from this worry.
When a piece of writing touches me, it propels my moments towards coherence. It creates a spaciousness that feels like freedom. And others’ writing makes me want to write myself. I bottle up the need to set words together, carefully, until it is ready.
I believe that dedicating a certain time and space to writing is an exercise in freedom. And, in judging this weekly competition for Hour of Writes, I have experienced a space throbbing with others’ unbottled words; with a sound of souls stretching toward the high notes; with language doing its alchemical thing and turning time into perpetuity.
Am I getting a little over-excited? Quite possibly. This is what happens when you give someone permission to set down syllable after syllable with the promise of an audience. I’m stringing together my moments into a kind of music, and I hope you’re enjoying the tune. Because I have certainly enjoyed yours: the scraps and snatches of story I’ve been granted, the arrows shot from other worlds.
Picking winners is a funny thing with writing. It’s hopelessly subjective, yet it gestures towards the most immense objectivity: the shared, shifting universe of letters. What you write in an hour may echo for years, centuries. It may take your moments and transport them into other minds. If it’s good – and let us, please (if elsewhere) debate what that means, because it’s worth every argument – it might just change everything.
When it comes to words, we’re all in the business of mind-reading. We are astonishingly good at it. Letter by letter, we set in motion the most complex machinery this planet has ever seen.
So. I have picked a winner. I have picked a couple of runners up. I have not found it easy, and I don’t expect you to agree. But I am extremely glad and grateful for the opportunity. And – if you have made it this far, to this dangling clause of an ante-penultimate sentence – I suggest you read on. What will others’ words release in you? We are waiting, wondering, listening into our screens.