By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine
Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones in a recent interview spoke of celebrity and the pitfalls they face. He spoke of his legend as a Rock Star as opposed to his actual existence as a fan and being aware of the truth of each. Richards referenced the Greek Mythology figure Icarus as what can happen should you fail to know who you truly are; should you fly too close to the Sun.
During my high school years I was fortunate to have many young teachers just out of college. They were eager to take on the challenge of teaching and challenge us as students to go the extra mile in our curiosity and education. One such teacher was Judy Thurman. Mrs. Thurman taught Greek Mythology. Not a particularly popular subject but I found it more interesting than most.
Icarus and his father the Master Craftsman Daedalus were escaping Crete by using wings Daedalus crafted from feathers and wax. Before their escape Daedalus warned his son of flying too close to the sea, where the moisture would weigh his wings down, or too close to the sun where the wax would melt and the wings come apart. Daedalus used this to teach his son of the fall one can take if too complacent or too prideful. As you know his pride caused him to soar toward the Sun, his wax melted and he fell into the sea.
As grateful as I am for my studies under Mrs. Thurman and the richness and global understanding of the tales of Greek Mythology this story was overshadowed by a simple phrase from a little girl from southern Arkansas. She was spending a day as a Page in the Arkansas State Senate where I was serving as Reading Clerk. Something was said about flying and she quickly shared with us something her father had taught her. She said, “My Daddy told me that you should never get no higher than pick’n corn or lower than dig’n taters”.
That phrase has stuck with me over the years. Although the little girl took Daddy’s tale literally, it still has the same clarity of Icarus’ warning from his father. Your demeanor should be no higher, prideful, than pick’n corn or lower, complacent, than dig’n taters. Both are lessons taught to a child by their father but in different approaches. Both can be affective but its impact depends on your audience.
Writing with impact depends on connecting with our audience. When writing we should ask ourselves how to best relate our ideas to our readers. Will they understand a quick reference to Icarus or will a colloquial phrase hit home better. A much as I may hate to admit it when it comes to thinking on being prideful I have thought more times on pick’n corn and dig’n taters than I have Icarus. Which do you think would connect with your readers? You may want to give it some thought or run it by a friend or editor before you commit it to the page. It could make a difference to your readers and your success.