What are words for?

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I started my novel-writing workshop on Wednesday and I think it’s going to be really good for me. The basic premise of it is to JUST WRITE THE FIRST DRAFT ALREADY … and to worry about polishing it later. This is advice I need; I agonize over comma placement and word choice to such an extent that I forget what I’m writing about in the first place. I really hope that I can keep up with this workshop and its prescription to churn out about thirty pages a week … yikes.

I’ve just had a meeting with an attorney to go over a Submission Release form, one that I’m to send to writers who are pitching screenplays in order to protect this company from litigation in the event that material similar “or identical to” their submission is generated. He agreed that, while standard, the wording is a bit misleading from the writer’s standpoint. And this is where it gets frustrating … being a writer, I take my words very seriously. I’m not prepared to initiate an industry-wide change to the verbiage in a standard form, but I wish it could be CLEARER. It seems a simple thing, but I know that legalese must be phrased in particular ways. 

Over the past two days I’ve been back in touch with an old friend who is going through a terrible breakup. One he didn’t see coming. He’s trying to piece it together and, as is often the case in the aftermath of a relationship, is coming to terms with who this person he loved actually is. Because, as I know too well, “love” or the notion of it, can make us forgive many things that don’t ultimately work for us, or ignore many yellow flags along the way. As I said when I started this blog last April, when I’d finally washed that mess-of-a-man out of my hair, I have stopped choosing partners who require a caveat issued to unsuspecting friends: “He’s a little hard to understand – it’s just his drug problem” – things of that nature. Doesn’t mean I won’t defend my loved ones if they make mistakes that others perceive as inexcusable; it’s a lot easier on the outside of a relationship to say, “You deserve better!” or “I wouldn’t put up with that!”. Everyone goes through difficult times and sometimes we don’t treat one another as well as we “should” – but as long as serious harm isn’t done (i.e. physical or prolonged mental abuse) and the good outweighs the bad, I believe in myriad chances. In part because I’ve needed them from others. 

But I digress – the reason I bring up my friend is that we’ve both been in situations where we’re instructed to ignore words and pay attention to actions instead. I get that to a large extent, but the fact remains that words are my commodity, are what I know best – and my friend is quite eloquent and articulate as well – and so we can’t NOT pay attention to words. Of course actions are valuable; as my mum told me years ago when I was venting to her about the aftermath of an argument with my then-beau, “Some people say I’m sorry. Some make pork chops.” In my ideal world, we would all be able to apologize AND make pork chops. Or bolognese sauce. I’ve got decades of practice apologizing and meaning it; the cooking thing is new and, I’m thrilled to say, coming along swimmingly. 

Sometimes I worry that my posts – some of them – are insipid; at dinner last night with Erika (it was lovely, thanks for asking. Hmm? Oh – Vietnamese. Omai, on Ninth Avenue) she allayed my fear, telling me that when I write about movies I’ve seen or galleries I’ve visited, it inspires her to do more things of that nature. So there you have it, one fan of the Insipid Series. 

Go Saints! 

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2 thoughts on “What are words for?

  1. Great! I beleive words are hugely important and gives a lot of info, they themselves and theirs order. For example, other people’s advices are mostly a swindle and mental abuse, ’cause the advisor only retranslated someone else’s thoughts, with no personal responsibility. May afterwards your own thoughts possibly be similar, but in other words, in another order, and another meaning after all.

  2. ‘The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them — words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a tellar but for want of an understanding ear.’
    — from ‘The Body’, by Stephen King

    ‘words like swords, voices like screeching tires; would that we could express ourselves without them – our bodies can’t lie’
    — Me, 2008

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