Words and Writing

I love:  words.

I better, if I’m going to write.

Words are the building blocks of my art.  I put them together and try to do it in new and surprising ways.   I don’t think I succeed a lot of the time, but when I do, there is the delicious pleasure of having made something no one else could make.

I wrote a passage in my book that I loved.  It almost doesn’t sound like me (and I’m not entirely sure it is—I’ve googled the crap out of it and I can’t find anywhere I lifted it from).   It’s so good I can’t believe it came out of my head.

It’s unnecessary to use big words, or overly complex phrasing, to convey an idea.   Look at this passage from Hemingway’s 1926 story “In Another Country,” for example.

In the fall the war was always there, but we did not go to it any more. It was cold in the fall in Milan and the dark came very early. Then the electric lights came on, and it was pleasant along the streets looking in the windows. There was much game hanging outside the shops, and the snow powdered in the fur of the foxes and the wind blew their tails. The deer hung stiff and heavy and empty, and small birds blew in the wind and the wind turned their feathers. It was a cold fall and the wind came down from the mountains.

You can see the street in your head, can’t you?  Each word is chosen very deliberately, and none of them are elaborate or showy.  Good word choices like powdered for the snow on the fox fur avoid clichés like dusted.

Consider the phrase the wind turned their feathers.  When wind blows a bird’s feathers, they flip up, don’t they?  But flip wouldn’t be the right word here, because it has a jovial quality that doesn’t fit with the quiet winter darkening of the street.   The birds are dead, and the wind is acting upon them.  Turned implies a more deliberate action, and a slower one.  The feathers turn as the birds swing back and forth in the wind, and in just a few words, Hemingway paints an image of motion in our minds.

He uses the word wind quite a few times here, but he has established a rhythm.  In the wintry street, it’s the only thing alive among the game animals.

By focusing on just a few details and using simple yet powerful words, Hemingway establishes a scene that sets a tone and draws us into the story.

Ernest Hemingway in Switzerland, 1927.

Image: By unattributed / Wikimedia Commons


I hate:  writing.

Yes, I said it.  Sometimes I do hate it.  If I’m tired, I don’t want to write; all I want to do is watch Emergency! on Netflix.  Or listen to music and blather in my chat room.   Or READ, for a change.

If I don’t write, I feel guilty.  When it’s going well, I love it, I don’t want to stop, I can’t fathom ending the dream I’ve fallen into.   Other times, I feel as though I’m writing a very long paper on a very dull subject.  I believe Hell for writers must be typing a dissertation on the striations in the wood grain on your desk.   For eternity.

3 thoughts on “Words and Writing

  1. As George Carlin said; “Words are all we have.” I like the words of Rufus Wainright songs (even if you aren’t sure what he is tring to convey).

    Keep writing <3

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