Eighteen days ago, more or less, I signed on with 750words.com and began a daily mind dump of words and more words to the blank screen. Like stretching exercises before a run, the flexing of fingers and imagination without a gallery of onlookers (most particularly without the presence of my self-editing coach) enhances the chances I’ll succeed with the writing project I’ve set for myself on a given day. A paragraph or a chapter, a scene or a segue between scenes–whatever the writing task–the hurdles are easier after a 750words warm-up.
Today’s stretching exercise resulted in a stream of words about words with advice, in the end, to me. I seldom take my own advice; perhaps posting what seemed like wisdom minutes ago will seem like balderdash tomorrow. Or maybe, when revisited, will remind me to flag the self-editing coach. Penalty: interference.
750words, March 2, 2014
There’s a dash of dove’s wing on the sky outside. Cloud? Maybe or sky before the painter comes to freshen the ash from yesterday’s burn off of rain. There’s a green box with pink dragonflies on the bed. Treasure chest? Maybe. Or coffin containing dust of what once was. There’s a fat book on the shelf in a stack of thin and thick books–third or fourth from the top–communication manual. Words. Words, yes. Words to describe field, tree, curtain, shelf, button, box, folder, map, printer, shoe, boot, flower, mirror, glass, stick, stopper, lamp, purse, bamboo, basket, yarn, valise, tackle.
Words to propel feet like run, walk, skip, dance, shuffle, stagger, trip. Words to make use of hands such as type, hold, finger, feel, fondle, hit, stroke, steal. Other words to describe how one runs, walks, skips, dances as in blindly, joyously, blithely, lethargically, lightly, heavily. Or how one uses their hands as in deftly, surely, clumsily, eagerly, softly, skillfully. Marcelo used his hands skillfully. Marcelo massaged. Marcelo is missed. Other words qualify how a book looks, or a shoe or a mirror, bird, leaf. Green bird, gray leaf, yellow shoe, black mirror. If the words are the wrong words then the image is false for the reader of the words sewn in a chain and meant to portray a woman, a man, dog, cat, landscape, seascape, sky, mood, situation.
A yellow shoe with red fleece lining is what? The slipper of a royal elf or fairy? A Barbie Doll accessory? A whim of imagination. A black mirror is what? The result of a woman or man’s unhappy visage of their image and resultant can of black spray paint? Or the effect of a fire which sooted the reflective surface? Words create meaning whether true to reality or without a whisker of verisimilitude. Verisimilitude requires a full beard of details. Even then the full beard may not reflect a genuine honest to goodness world but a world manufactured from thin air. The trick is to manufacture a world into which a reader of words will continue along its interior aisles, its exterior paths and byways, heedless of thorns, content to make detours if taking the detour carries them to further discoveries.
The writer may not be on a quest, but the reader is, when fed crumbs of interesting facts and details to keep them bending to examine a crumb and gingerly pick it up, sometimes pocketing what’s been left and other times plopping the crumb on their tongue and swallowing what’s been offered. Of the crumb–it may be bitter or sweet. It may have the power to put the reader to sleep or energize him or her to go on and on, neglecting sleep.
Take the artist. She stares at a blank canvas she’s pulled from a closet. An idea lethargically moves, shuffles from one side of her thinking to the other. The blank canvas is broken with lines, quadrants, and the ideas find their places one by one like children entering a grade school classroom. The artist, teacher of this metaphoric classroom, finds there’s too much chatter with Susie in the front row across from Kathy so she moves Kathy to the back of the row of desks. The boys in the back–Bob and Jerry–throw spit wads at Kathy so the teacher/artist sends them to stand in the hall. After much rearranging of seating for her ideas, the artist squeezes out paint and begins. Days or months later she tilts her head and looks at her creation and wonders what her early ideas were because what she’s created doesn’t have the chatter and energy of the creation she’d intended. There’s no tension, no conflict, without the naughty boys (Bob and Jerry) she sent to the hall all those brushstrokes ago. She decides they can re-enter the class. They hobble in at her command. Old men now, they’ve lost most of their marbles; neither can remember what a spit wad looks like, much less how to make one.
And what has this writer come away with by examining an artist/teacher concocted from thin air and words? Perhaps there is waste in sending paragraphs and thoughts to the hall for simply being what they are; for being lively and full of mischief. Self edits too soon may result in what was fresh growing stale and moldy and dumb with neglect and age. When Kathy and Susie were separated, the background chatter of subplots, the hum of genuine situations faded. Don’t self edit too early, writer. Let dancing elves wear yellow shoes lined in red fleece. Let blue bears samba on the face of the moon.