In my twenties I fantasized about being a newspaper journalist. When I became one, my love for words was lassoed, harnessed, and hitched to a formula. The struggle to operate within the confines of a journalistic format killed the joy. I decided that reporters had to love the story more than they loved the words beneath the story. They had to bow to rules and to the editors who sliced their submissions into truncated text bites. I didn't belong.
Creative writers are outlaws. We don't want to be told how or what to write. We have problems with authority and often don't fit in. Many of us are more comfortable communing with our keyboard, dictionary, and thesaurus than we are with other humans.
My time with the newspaper was brief. Now I write what I want, obsessing over the precise phrase that will pull the reader into my reality. The way I express emotion has to make her feel what I feel the way I'm feeling it. I want to describe a scene so he'll see what I see in the same colors with equal intensity as they appear to me. Smells, textures, sounds, the very air that my characters breathe must be shared by my readers. I want to make them laugh, and cry, and think, and by the end I want them transformed.
I can get caught in a web of words for hours, writing it one way, forging ahead then returning to write it again because the cadence doesn't sing, or the senses aren't stimulated, or the transition from thought to thought is choppy. I can't just say, She was sad. I'm compelled to paint the picture of her sadness so that the reader comes unglued with sorrow just reading my words.
As crazy-making as that is, it's the magic of a craft that holds immeasurable power and beauty when well-executed.
There's another kind of writing where content is king and words matter less. Stream-of-consciousness style is a spewing of thoughts on the page as they occur. I use it to journal. Better than a therapist, this method can coax the subconscious to spill its secrets. When thoughts are written before the mind censors them, we have the opportunity to learn extraordinary things about ourselves.
I've streamed myself out of confusion into clarity, from self-loathing to self-love, and over the process of several days a thought-trail proved that I was average but not normal and I was very much okay with that. It allowed me to let go of chronic perfectionism.
Whether they're massaging my psyche or I'm romancing their subtleties for just the right nuance of meaning, I love them. Whether their illusive slipperiness makes me crazy, or their blatant honesty makes me incrementally more sane, there's no substitute for a frequent and intimate engagement with the most accessible form of communication we have: words.
Do you love words?
Is an evening of Scrabble more fun for you than a wedding dance, for instance?
Have you ever written to clear your mind or organize your thoughts?
Tell me about that!