I wish I’d written that…

When I was studying music at college, I went to the movies with a boyfriend, also a musician, and just before the movie began the THX theme started playing. On screen, appeared the words, The audience is listening.

The  music theme is simple. It consists of two notes; one high, the other low. And they slide towards one another.  So, the high note descends, the low note rises, until they become one note.

Beautiful.  Stunning. A whole world of meaning expressed with humble simplicity.

My boyfriend leaned towards me and muttered out of the corner of his mouth, “Damn, I wish I’d written that.”

I didn’t get it at the time. But now, through reading I understand exactly the longing and frustration my friend experienced in the theatre that day. When something is brilliant, and simple, one feels as if it was an object of great value, plainly in front of your feet, for all to see, but overlooked through laziness or inattention. Two people walking along a street, one spots the fifty dollar bill on the pavement, the other only notices the rubbish  in the gutter.

These gems slip by us if we’re not careful.

If a piece of art is complex and brilliant, something in the league of Shakespeare, or Mozart, for example, it is appropriate to simply bow down to the master, and acknowledge that the art has passed out of a mortal’s reach. And that’s okay.

But when a writer, artist, musician finds brilliance in simplicity, one can’t help but feel slightly envious. I wish I’d thought of that, written that, composed that.

There is a part of me that enjoys the experience too. I’ll read the same sentence over and over, letting the elegance of it fill my head, wishing I’d had the foresight to discover such simple beauty. I’ll dissect the sentence. Examine the words from both sides, searching for clues. But sometimes, there are no clues, nothing to discover, just simple prose.

And I’m left thinking, once again, Damn, I wish I’d written that.

Who inspires you to try harder? To reach a little further with your own writing? Who leaves you wishing you’d written that?

For me, it’s Rose Tremain.


Filed under authors, blogging, books, editors, fiction, life, music, Reading, writers, Writing

20 responses to “I wish I’d written that…

  1. Ha, I find myself saying that a lot. Some people can state such clear, meaningful, and eloquent yet simple prose in few words…always amazes me.

    • It’s a joy to read, isn’t it? I’ve had times where I’ve really struggled to express something, often with paragraphs of text, and then discovered the same topic handled so lightly, effortlessly, by someone else, often using one sentence, and yet it gets right to the heart of the matter.

  2. Lua

    I’m so glad you brought this up- I feel that way whenever I read a piece of good writing! 🙂 Let it be a short story, a novel, an article or even a blog post, when I enjoy it so much I instinctively think “damn, I wish I’d written than” at the back of my mind.
    I’ve heard somewhere that writers are the jealous types… I wouldn’t call this jealousy or envy but artists motivating each other with their work. It fuels me to try harder, be braver and take risks…

  3. Damn! I wish I’d written this!

  4. Like the very first sentence in Moby Dick, so simple yet evocative and people have been trying to recreate that opening ever since. How do people capture that simplicity so well?

  5. Lisa, your post rings SO true fro me, too. I’ve had so many of those moments when reading good books. When I read children’s books with my daughter, I go overboard and say, “Oh, I hate this so-and-so author or illustrator”, and she cracks up every single time, even though she knows that I actually mean to say that I admire them…

    • That’s funny. I am also guilty of admiring kids books. I will pause and say to my son, “listen to that.” I’ll want to read the same phrase over and over, which is quite an annoying trait for a mother to have.

  6. I try think of it as, “You know, I could write something like that.” Instead of wishing for something that wasn’t meant to be. The gems are meant for each of us whether big or small, we just have to create them. That’s all. 🙂

  7. This is a very thoughtful post. You bring up a good point. I rarely say I wish I written that for Shakespeare, cause honestly I don’t think myself capable. But when its more simple it’s easy to believe you can reach for that star. I’ve been reading Thoreau lately and I have been saying, “Man, I wish I wrote that.” More because I have felt the same way as he did for so long, and just never had the right way to say it.

  8. I don’t really experience the ‘wish I’d written that’ phase? For me, the creation is more fun that the product, so if the product is already there, the fun is over. So more than wish I could have the creation, I’m inspired by what I see. I might say, “How obvious that note! I should have seen that,” and go off to mull over the beauty of it. But I wouldn’t wish for the words.

    – Corra

    the victorian heroine

    • Hi Corra, I think your way of looking at inspiring works is probably wiser.
      Perhaps I wish to be able to capture the simplicity myself, rather than the exact same words. Yes, I suspect that is probably so.
      Thanks for helping me to clarify that one.

  9. Now I envy you cause you write about this first. But even if we’re have the same opportunity to write about something, or compose something, the outcome will always be different cause people are unique. We just need to learn from each other.
    Keep on inspiring me!!!!

    • Yes, you’re right. We all have a unique way of looking at the world and a unique way of expressing our experience.
      Good to have you back again. Hope your writing is giving you a lot of joy!

  10. Ironically Lisa, “Milk Fever” was the book I wished I’d wrote!

    I loved it so much and was drawn into its dark, mysterious romance. I read it in three days yet it stayed with me for about week afterwards.

    I work in a bookstore so have it strategically positioned on the staff recommends shelf and spruik it to worthy customers! I’m soooooo excited for you and even more excited for us for a second novel from you!


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