Random ramblings of a mind damaged by years of disuse and abuse. Also a place to go to be bored to tears.
The Random Cartoon
Words to live by...
"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."
(The right to looseness has been officially given)
By the way... there's a crossword at the bottom of this page
Saturday, January 3, 2009
Tangled Up In Blue
My mental lips move when I read. That is, I sound them out in my head as my eyes move across the words. I play with them, like a kitten plays with a piece of string, twisting them into different sounds that seem to subtly alter their meaning or affect the context. Like "often" which I often pronounce "off-ten" in my mind (but never out loud). Or struggle between my habitual mispronunciation and the approved one (as in "aw-ree" vs "uh-rye" for awry).
This mental word wrestling always tends to lead me astray and threaten to disrupt the flow of words or tangle the thought inherent in the sentence into a meaningless mental dustbunny. The individual words become more important, more real, than the author's intent.
Writing is even more fraught with peril of this sort. What happens in my head, the effort of phrasing and picking the words to use, distracts me from the idea I wish to express. I get entangled in the sounds, the inferences, the overuse of a word, that I forget what the point of it all is.
And then there's you, the reader. How do I get you to feel the inference, the emphasis on a particular word, the subtle sarcasm in a seemingly innocent phrase? Sometimes, there might be an emphasis on the accented syllable that expresses a meaning, a context, a nuance that just reading the word would not do.
A simple declarative sentence.
I cannot do this.
It can be read five different ways, just emphasize a different word each time. "Cannot" can be CANNOT or canNOT (or maybe even CANnot) and each is so slightly different in what emotion is expressed.
And then there is the tempo. As I write even this, there is a change in tempo that lends its own context, more urgency. But what if you, the reader, do not feel it, do not read it that way?
A picture is worth a thousand words, someone once said, though maybe no one actually said it. Just writing that prompted me to look up the phrase (the power and bane of the existence of the internet) to see if it had a known source. [The source is vague, a similar phrase that almost expresses the same idea is attributed to one person.] Do you see the seduction involved? A painting is thousands of strokes of a brush, an essay is thousands of letters. Both the essay and painting can be reduced to their lowest common denominator. Or broken into different parts. But then you lose the totality, don't you?
As a painter dips his brush into the paint, the writer dips his (mental) pen into the "inkwell" of words inside his head. The painter selects the color for this dab, this stroke; the author selects the word for his phrase. Both piece together a picture. Do painters get lost in the colors, distracted by the feel of the brush on canvas? When I dabbled (poorly, very poorly) in the visual art, I certainly did. I would find a color and end up putting it in various areas of the canvas, using varying strokes or daubs, afraid I would not find it again when I thought I might need it.
Perhaps I am as poor a writer as I am a painter. I can't judge myself fairly. There's no objectivity there. I can't trust others to judge me either because I then have to wrestle with the thought that they are like parents praising a stick drawing of their (hopefully) precocious child. (Yes, I obviously have trust issues.)
Proofreading is agony. Such is the nature of my world. And I am not an obsessive-compulsive outside of these posts.