Have you ever had one of those nights that so many thoughts are going through your head you can’t keep track of them all? They rush by so fast you can’t grip a’one of them greased pigs to hold them still long enough to figure them out.
Of course you have, we all have!
Well that’s the night I’m having. That’s the night I’ve been having for the past week. It’s put a damper on my ability to sleep and function like a normal person might (whatever normal is, and whatever my ‘normal’ happens to be.)
As I think to myself, “What do my precious followers want to read from me tonight?” A number of things go through my mind. The ones that slow down enough to glimpse? My penchant for being a Grammar Nazi? NAH. Music? MAYBE. Probably not. WRITING. Maybe! Maybe? Um, the new book I bought (called “The Well-Spoken Thesaurus” by Tom Heehler) but that may just lead me into Grammar Nazi mode and nobody wants me to go there.
We’ll go with writing. It has the least amount of “hell no’s” attached.
First, I must say, “You Can Do It” By Ice Cube (which just started playing on my new Ipod) is not the appropriate music to read literary quotes with. There we go. Bach.
“Our subject being Poetry, I propose to speak not only of the art in general but also of its species and their respective capacities; of the structure of plot required for a good poem…” -Aristotle, The Poetics.
Along with wonderful suggestions on how to word things not so commonplace, which is helping my writing tremendously, this book also has some damn fine quotes.
Anyway, that’s right… writing.
I wish us writers were still referred to as “poets”, regardless of whether we write poetry or not. Once upon a time, anyone who took up a pen and parchment was referred to as “the poet” and I believe that term had a certain sort of (pardon the pun) poetical aspects to it. Also, a respectable aspect as well. We may be seen as flighty, or scruffy, artistic and maybe a little odd- but it was well respected. Nowadays, I tell someone I’m a writer, and they say a noncommittal “oh, how nice” and move on. Has it now eluded the common man that writing, no matter what it is that is being written, is no more simple or commonplace than it is to paint a masterpiece of art? After all, writing is nothing but a painting of words, a mural pieced together by those of us who see words for all the fine color and beauty they are. I am both an artist and a poet (in the modern literal and past respective meaning of the word) and I tell you, it feels exactly the same to paint as it does to write. The same places in my body, mind and soul are active- and what, besides these two functions (and music) can you say awakens all three parts of the complete human?
Out of many who shrug it off as more-or-less an “eccentricity” or “laziness” to be overlooked or “tolerated” from me when I say I am a writer, are the ones who assume I am in it for the money. This bunch I like to refer to politely as “ignorant”. Everyone has heard of the term “starving artist” Well then, “starving poet” quite applies in most scenarios as well. Furthermore, even if I was somehow “getting rich” from my writing, I’m appalled at the inference that money is the only reason I do it.
“The Utopians wonder how any man should be so much taken with the glaring doubtful luster of a jewel or stone, that can look up to a star, or to the sun himself.” Sir Thomas More, Utopia
It is because of these attitudes that I consistently fight the urge to feel lazy and unfit during the times I am writing, or sitting down to write. As we all know, writing takes time, and trying to figure out what to write takes longer. To sit here and do nothing but think, and wonder, and come up with ideas to discard and reexamine, then discard again, looks to others as a waste of time (trust me, I wish I had great amount more time in which to devote to my writing). They say I should just write the whole time I set aside to write, if I should set aside any at all. To me, that’s like trying to paint a rainbow without mixing your colors. You can’t make a truly believable rainbow with the only three prime colors Red, Yellow and Blue. If I don’t contemplate my words thoroughly, then one of two things happens: 1. It comes out poorly and fake. And 2. It doesn’t come out at all. Everyone knows that writers can “suffer” from writer’s block on a fairly regular basis- I don’t need to feel lazy on top of it. It just distracts me from all the magnificent writing I COULD be creating.
“It was only that, having written down the first few fine paragraphs, I could not produce any others- or, to approximate Gertrude Stein’s remark about a lesser writer of The Lost Generation- I had the syrup, but it wouldn’t pour.” William Styron, Sophie’s Choice.
I realize times have changed quite phenomenally, even from when I was a little girl, curled up in bed with a book begging my mother to let me finish “just one more chapter” before bed (then trying to see how many chapters I could get in before she came back to “remind” me that I was allotted just “one” more chapter- I can’t tell you how many books I finished this way. “I’m almost done with the chapter, I promise!”) to nowadays, when the most reading I do on days I don’t write includes the horrendous forced short-hand of texts with the even more horrendous awareness that current education is failing this new generation- It’s appalling. I’m not saying one has to know how to spell to magnificent proportions, or that short-hand is a bad thing (with 160 word limits on my texts, I am a sad-to-say habitual user of texting short-hand myself) but the attitude looked upon (and down) the written word, the lack of effort put into its productivity and completion, the lack of caring one has pertaining to the way they “sound” when they write is… how should I put this delicately? Borderline stupidity? Ignorance not to be ignored? Ignorance of the worst kind, indeed. Regardless of the technological era and the fact that our children nowadays can name hundreds more video games than they possibly could species of flower or animal or even book titles, people still fail to realize that more than half of communication we do (ESPECIALLY during this technological age, with the internet readily available and texting now easier than dialing a call) is WRITTEN. Why can we not find it in ourselves to learn to use our words properly?
“By profession he is, or has been, a scholar, and scholarship still engages, intermittently, the core of him.” J.M Coetzee, Disgrace
I’ll admit now, I am little less than screwed if I did not have my computer’s spell check (from a publication standpoint, where professionally published novels and their readers are unforgiving of more than a couple spelling errors). But I do not turn it off and I do not choose to ignore it- I learn from it. Every red underlined word I find I MUST understand WHY it is “wrong” (if indeed it is). This creates new learning every time I write. Whether it be that I mistyped a word I know, and how to train myself from making the same mistake again, learning to spell a new word or even an old word I can’t for the life of me remember how to spell- it isn’t a cheat. It’s a learning tool. Did anyone ever refer to a dictionary as a cheat? I use dictionaries, thesauruses and the internet to define words for me all the time, and often learn better ones to use in their stead. In conclusion: Words just fascinate me. Maybe I’m being too harsh on the rest of the world to say they should learn to spell correctly. Maybe I’m sounding pompous. Or maybe, just maybe…
This new “trend” of short-hand texting coupled with the deplorable education system of this nation is driving me crazy. “What” is not “Wut”, “Brother” is not “Bruther”, “Psycho” is not “Syco” I mean, I realize many schools start out their kindergarteners and first-graders with their words using phonetics and sounds- but then they seem to forget to teach them the rest. English is not a sound-based language, sad to say. The WORST advice I got BY FAR in school was this: “Just sound it out.”
Oh boy, I think I’ve trailed into Grammar Nazi land again. I realize I’ve dedicated my life to the written word (among other things) but it is not my place to correct others, I realize that. If the urge to correct others drives me this insane, perhaps I should have pursued being a teacher instead (I’ll pass).
No, us poets were meant to learn our words and utilize them to the best of our abilities. Not everybody is meant to be a poet. Just like not everyone is meant to be a mathematician. As I am sitting here complaining of the atrocious spelling I find all around me, somewhere out there is a Math Nazi blogging “Why can’t they just learn simple division??” Or “She” in my case. There’s my own piece of humble pie, served straight from Humbledoore to my ego’s mouth-watering appetite.
Chomp Chomp. Nom Nom.
“… And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief…” T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land
There is something to be said for the technological age. The fact that I can cart around 1000 (more or less) books in something the size of a paperback novel and read it wherever I want. That I can listen to Bach and Beethoven with headphones as I write and not madden the others in my vicinity. THAT I HAVE THE ABILITY TO WRITE AT ALL. This computer, a modern-day poet’s savior. I have written well over 3,000,000 words in my 19 years as a writer (my first published writing was a well-worded book review at the age of nine) I could not even get half that down (or anywhere close) if all I had was an ink pen and parchment. Everything I’ve written by hand, I’ve altered and added upon transferring to an electronic device.
But, in my stubbornness, my penchant for the old fashioned, and in yearning for respect as a writer, I still maintain it would be fantastic if us writers were once again referred to as the “poets” of our society.
“Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power, Cheerful, for the freest action form’d under the laws divine, The Modern Man I sing.” Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, Book 1 “Inscriptions”
I am by no means laying claim to the theory that my writing is in any way shape or form better or worse than my fellow poets. But I write from the heart, always. Leaving me to leave you with this one last quote, taken from the book but with no explained source:
“If his performance was not electrifying, at least it was believable.”
Thank you, and Happy Saint Patrick’s day.