Wednesday, July 3, 2013

No Words: An IWSG Post


I’ve been on a writing break (of sorts) since the release of my third book and this time living almost completely in the real world has been an interesting journey.  A strange conundrum has found me and I’m not completely certain I have it worked out yet, but I am ready to drop it into this writers’ forum to see what you make of it (To see other blogs participating in IWSG, see the master list here).  My issue is about words and writers and the sometimes symbiotic and sometimes parasitic nature of their relationship.

I think it is fair to say that most writers see the world through words, possibly more heavily than other people.  Math-inclined people probably see the world in numbers more than others.  Artists probably see the world in images.  I don’t have any hard facts on this, but it stands to reason.  We all have aptitudes and our non-aptitudes (for me, see anything involving coordination, especially sports), and our aptitudes shape how we see the world.

There has been a lot going on in my world with words, the words of others and their power, the words I use to define myself and my actions, words in writing, words in general.  As I’ve been working out my thoughts on this, I’ve felt very much like I was tickling the edge of oblivion because the idea that I might find something wrong with the way I see the world and my dependence on words, has been unsettling.  But here we are.

The catalyst:  At dinner with a friend, I was relating a bit of drama I recently had with a friend (catching her up with my life since I haven’t seen her in a while... writing-related shut-in syndrome, of course).  I mentioned to her that I had written a response letter and was thinking about sending it, just to get some closure.  

My friend said, “Don’t.”

I said, “No, it’s not bad.  I think it’s actually a good thing.”

She said, “Don’t.  Just let it be.”

Okay, well, closure freak here.  Just letting anything be isn’t something that feels right.  I like to put a bow on it, seal it up, and then let it go.

I said, “Well, the main thing is I wrote it.  The words just bubble up in me if I don’t write them down.”  I paused. “I feel infected by words sometimes...”

That led us down the rabbit hole and there I have remained.  There is something tactile, something compulsive in my need to write things down, to make sense of the world through words.  I’ve always seen this as a good thing (for a writer especially), but suddenly, in interpersonal relationships, I realized it might not be good at all.

I didn’t send the letter.

Last night, I experienced something indescribable.  Neither entirely good nor entirely bad.  Something that made me fight against the urge to write about it, to discover what the experience meant to me through delving into the treasure trove of words.  I suddenly wanted to just let the experience settle on me without smothering it in language that couldn't possibly capture what was one of the most powerful moments of my life.

And in that moment and the hours that followed, I didn’t want to hear words or talk to people, to form images of my life experience for others.  I didn’t want to communicate in faulty terms what went beyond words, too powerful and elusive to be captured by them, almost like trying to tether wonder.

I finally understood what I have known, that each blessing can also be a curse.  I am a writer.  That is who I am.  And words are the medium with which I connect to the world.  But last night, I felt the true limitations of that, the way that pinning an experience down with words can rob something, diminish it, just as in other cases, words can illuminate the truth obscured in the hazy shadows of our lives.

In the morning light today, I see that balance is what all of this is actually about, finding the connection inside myself that allows me to find beauty in the wordless, the feelings and experiences beyond language.  To seek that connection deeply.  And to use my words and the pictures they create in a more measured way, not in my relationships with others, but into the stories always pushing at me to be told.

The truth is: words, understanding others, seeking to obtain the concrete in ever-changing people is much less important than just having empathy.

We don’t need to build word prisons to protect us or to capture us, to make us right in any circumstance.  For me, I think I found a step toward peace in just breathing in a remarkable experience and allowing it to change the way I see my life and the world around me.

I love words.  That’s not going to end.  But, and this is a hard thing for me to say, there is more to life than fiction (though my characters certainly reserve the right to disagree), and feeling more, experiencing more, exploring the truth found in silence and the beyond—those things will make me a better person, and possibly, in the long run, a better writer.