Monday, December 10, 2012

On Writing (or, more accurately, On Not Really Writing).

Time to put pen to paper. And I mean business. I'm even sitting on my reading couch - the couch I only venture over to when I'm committed to doing my most importantest reading and writing (though lately it's the couch I've idly gazed at from across the room with a vague sense of repressed guilt and anxiety). Have stumbled through a few speed-writing attempts over recent weeks and now know that practice makes perfect. I've discovered this by conducting an experiment that I affectionately refer to as Being Lazy and Also Afraid to Write (side note: when you spell "write" as "rite" and only catch the error because of the red squiggly line, it's time to worry).

I'll have to ease into this until I've remembered how to string words together in a manner that is eloquent enough to hold someone's attention for longer than five seconds (including my own). So, will cheat and kick off with a witty quote from a new favorite literary magazine, McSweeney's Internet Tendency:

Don’t spend your career lost in a sea of copycats when you can establish your own set of rules. If everyone’s putting periods at the end of their sentences, put yours in the middle of words. Will it be incredibly difficult to read? Yes it will. Will it set you on the path to becoming a literary pioneer? Tough to say, but you’re kind of out of options at this point.

Perhaps I'll experiment with grammar. 
 Bang; zoom! or s.yntax said she. hi! ku?

And out of options I am. The issue I'm grappling with is overexposure to expendable writing. Cheap, bland writing simply meant  to convey some tactical, tangible message, or maybe without any real intention at all. Words that will be rendered meaningless in a day or are already meaningless because today's news article is just a modified iteration of yesterday's.  Prose whose only metaphors are dead ones and in which "corp speak"is more prevalent than imagery. We're surrounded by it when we consume our daily news and magazines. We hail it as efficient and clear when we send emails at work. And it serves a purpose in its own right. Sometimes we just need to know the facts. But when we spend our days reading news articles written for an 8th grade reading level (as is standard for nearly all major news publications) and typing concise bullets to ensure others read at least some of what we write, are we training our minds to forego the beauty of language in favor of convenience?

Language has for centuries been regarded as among the highest forms of art. In today's world, can we appreciate the flavor that an extra adjective adds to a description? Or relish with pleasure in a non-native English speaker's imperfectly written note, even if it's not as concise as we were hoping for? Most importantly, how can we ensure the beauty and richness of language and words continue to color our lives despite the writing we see and write every day - the prose that is stripped of art and flair? It's time to embark on a new experiment, or an effort at least: to re-train my mind to write artfully. Not practically or logically. Maybe not grammatically. But honestly and creatively, to appreciate and respect the essence of language. 

1 comment:

mjr615 said...

By jove, now you have it. For many, and you too obviously, it is a "rite", a sacred one. Well done.