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A few years ago, I was invited to do a reading for a group of student writers at a local college, and to introduce my reading by briefly addressing the students on the subject of "The Importance of Writing." I made a note to myself — " The Imp. of Wrtg." — on the appropriate date on my calendar, and promptly forgot all about it until the very eve of my scheduled appearance, when I finally confronted the advisability of having something in mind to say before I actually came right out and said it. So I was mulling over the possibilities, none of which seemed very promising, when I happened to glance at my calendar and ... there it was! The Imp of Writing! I could blame it all on the Imp of Writing! That scurrilous story in PLAYBOY about my irrepressibly salty friend Little Enis, that salacious novel with all those gamy jokes ... hey, the Imp of Writing made me do it!
"Write what you know," the ancient truism instructs us. How, pray tell, could you do otherwise? "What you know" is whatever's in your head, a seething, bubbling alchemical brew of your personal history and experience and genetics and various belief systems--and that most volatile of ingredients, your own absolutely unique imagination. So if your head is full of knights and dragons and fair ladies, that's what you'll write, regardless of whether or not you ever met a dragon socially. Poets and pornographers have at least this much in common: Their heads are full of what they write. Writing, as we used to put it back in the Sixties, is an adventure in inner space; it will help you discover who you are, and what the world is. How do I know what I think, the saying goes, until I read what I've written? Writing will make you a better reader, a better thinker, and a better person.
The Imp of Writing has been sitting on my shoulder for almost sixty years now, like an albatross, an organ grinder's monkey, a little bird with secrets to whisper, a tiny demon with a pitchfork, an angel with a halo. The Imp of the Perverse. The Muse. May you be so blessed.
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