June 18, 2011


June 18, 2011

“All that one thinks does not deserve to be said.

And all that one says does not deserve to be written.

And all that one writes does not deserve to be printed.”

Rabbi Mennachem Mendel of Kotsk- 19th century

My first reaction is ,”You’re kidding me, right?  I’ve got to write about ideas not worth expressing and writing that doesn’t deserve to be written?”  Here goes! 

Think before you speak; a simple admonition, but one with hugely important ramifications.  I’m famous for reciting to my students, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”  In my classes they’re allowed to think anything they want about me or anyone else, but they aren’t allowed to say anything hurtful.  We’ve all been subjected to people who seem to talk just to hear their own voices and whose rhetoric is substanceless and vapid.  Much that is expressed would be better left unsaid and unwritten.  How many Hollywood interviews are little more than fill-in-the-blank Mad Libs, as interchangeable as a light bulb ?  How many crumbled up balls of paper does the average successful author toss into the can before being satisfied?  How many writers have received just as many rejection letters as they have agreements/contracts to publish?

What the Rabbi stated in the 19th century, is even more true today.  The sheer volume of the written word has increased exponentially since then, and the process of evaluation can be likened to separating the wheat from the chaff.  What then, are the lessons to be learned?  They aren’t new messages, they’re the same tried and true ones we’ve heard for ages:

  • Think before we speak.  Some things are better left unsaid. 
  • No matter how successful we are as writers or authors, not all of what we write deserves to see the light of day. 
  • On the other hand, remember that the majority of  great ideas, inventions, and  creations have been born of mistakes and failures.

Peace, Love, and  Humbleness

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