a way with words

Wrote this some years back in one of my frustrated moments about writing fiction. My goals have shifted somewhat, but I like it, so reproduce it here:

I’ve lost it again. It was there, right on the tip of my tongue, but I’ve lost it. A whole cascading gallon of words, gone. They etched themselves on my mind for a moment. So fast they piled on top of each other, gleeful, eager. I was…sitting in the armchair staring at the bookcase. Washing up, spilling water down my sleeves. Wandering up the stairs, forgetful of where I was going. And then the rabble is gone – gone! Just like that, erased, vanished. I have a moment of frustrated mourning. How many stories can come and go, in a flash?

Having a way with words will not make you a good writer. The most delicious sentences are in vain, with nothing to hold them. Like a broken cup, it all spills out uselessly onto an unforgiving floor. Trying to write them down before they are lost – one hesitation, just one, can lose it all – stopping to save a document – so very sensible, and yet so fatal. This is wonderful, I must save it – but in those few seconds it is lost again. Gone. My very first word. ‘Gone’. And it repeats over and over in my life. Gone.

It is not that I cannot think of a plot. Not precisely. They flow exuberantly through my mind – usually uninvited – but they turn sour. My initial caresses, the delight of losing myself in a tale of my own making…it is over too quickly, before I could do anything with it. My mind makes a series of adjustments. I forget the original – was it better?! That which I adored with a passion yesterday today seems pathetic, useless, even despicable. Surely not. Not entirely. Perfectionism sizzles in there with the whole torrid mix. It will not stay still. And then it is lost forever.

Keep on pushing, straining, hoping, hurting, and then maybe you will achieve it – the grand idea the glorious tale the exorbitant march of words. But each time becomes another time where the sour taste of defeat spreads. It is like the food you adored but now cannot stand. That is how I feel about words. That is how I feel about my words. But they won’t let me go. Not entirely. I allow them vacation time and tell them not to come back if they don’t want to. But they slyly re-occur, bringing with them all their tired disappointment.

Having a way with words will not make you a good writer. But words insist on having their way with me. Briefly, punctiliously, laugh-out-loud extravagantly – and then comes the dumping, the dispelling, the never-mind-not-today dulling. The teasing, exhausting, wooing, discouraging, miserable love affair with words. There are those that achieve some mastery. Some discipline. Some staying power.

But they will not stay with me. They never do.

They never quite leave me alone, either.

2 thoughts on “a way with words

  1. Kathryn says:

    Yes.Yes, all this is true.Yes, you have a way with words.Very well written, thank you. I often feel like i'm chasing a unicorn, they are elusive, just out of my grasp, can't quite trap the thoughts with words.Hope you are feeling a little better.


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