I hope that you will indulge me by watching this one-minute YouTube video:
Change your words
Change your world.
The message is simple, really: change your words a little; improve your message a lot.
Change your words.
But what if I don’t know how to change my words? What if the right words aren’t there? What if the words aren’t there at all? What if the words that are there, suddenly just look and sound exaggerated and – well – just unimpressive?
This is a writer’s struggle, constantly seeking the right combination of words to express something more impactfully, more evocatively, more visually, and somehow transform the words into a memorable and lasting experience for the reader.
A couple of days ago, while driving to and fro from somewhere this week I caught Eleanor Wachtel, host of the CBC’s Writers & Company radio show, interview writer Edward St. Aubyn about his recent novel At Last. I was actually listening, which my last post would suggest that I am incapable of doing while driving. Eleanor read a passage from the book which fell upon my ears with such eloquence and descriptive mastery that I just wanted to savour it. Then Edward asked her, “Would you like me to unpackage that for you?” and I thought, no! Why would you unpackage something which must have taken so much skill and effort to package? Unpackage and paraphrase to me and the words lose all their magic. Some words are not meant to be changed.
A recent post over at Write on Edge recently helped me put my struggle with and without words into a little more perspective. Writers like perspective, don’t they? Cameron wrote in her Be an Impressionist post which offered that writers would do well to use the same approach that painters of the Impressionist period used: “the next time the words start to trip you up, give yourself some distance to see the whole. Be an Impressionist. It’s only when you step back that you see what is memorable, what lingers in the head and the heart after the reading is over.”
Are the words tripping you up?
Most memoirists have a strong tendency to accentuate and perhaps exaggerate the ordinary for it’s in Life’s ordinary moments that we cross boundaries and borders and connect. Humanity loves honesty. I remember listening to writer Wade Rouse saying the best way to start in memoir writing is to remember these three words: heartbreak, humour and honesty.
I would like to be able to ‘package’ my words as Edward did. I would like to be able to express heartbreak with the same humour and honesty as Wade. I want to power of words to be in my head, in my hands, in my pen, and in my heart. I just want to yank out those words lurking in my grey matter just beyond the reach of my cerebral cortex and make them magically appear onto my blank computer screen. The truth is, sometimes neither the words nor the power are there. But they lurk.
Hold that thought!
Sometimes, often unexpectedly, those lurking words come in such a flash that they keep me up at night – or wake me up at night – or come to me in the middle of a conversation with someone who is rightfully expecting my full attention. The worst is when the words come and there’s nothing to be done about it… no pen, no computer, no recorder, nothing … and the words are gone.
I’d rather not think of the words that aren’t there as writer’s block; I prefer instead to think of them as writer’s hibernation. And since Winter is waning and Spring is aloft, perhaps the mind will soon let the words come out and play.
Spring has sprung … have your words?