For the Love of Words

Take-Home Message: Writing moves me. Writing composes my love affair with words.

Writer’s Note: I dedicate this piece to addressing the first questions submitted on the Ask Me page. Here are those questions: What is your process or procedure for writing?  Do you begin with an outline in mind?  Do you sit in front of a blank screen and wait for inspiration?  Do you have goals as far as length?  Do you edit as you go?

It would be unfair to attempt to answer these questions without first telling you the greatest love story of my life. I enjoyed learning and using new words from a young age, but the manifestation of my love for these words did not take root until a few years down the road. I always crushed on them, but I played hard to get. When I fell, though…well, the rest is just history. Here’s my story.

There are two important details from this story. The first being that as a tike Webster’s Dictionary was my favorite book. I filled notebook after notebook with words I found as I scoured through it on numerous evenings throughout my childhood. (I still have many of these sacred symbols of our love, too.)

The second aspect sets the tone for the rest of the story. It happened in eighth grade English class. I had a teacher with whom I did not see eye-to-eye (go figure). Nearly every day of the year, she wrote a prompt on the board at the front of the classroom and told us to get to work. I felt like both these assignments and being forced to stay locked up in a room with someone who I felt was failing at her job were both complete wastes of my time. I was wrong on both accounts. Boy, was I blindsided.

Love always finds us when we’re not looking for it, though, I think. I chose to undertake each assignment from a place of contempt. I’d ask myself, how can I earn an A without actually writing about the prompt? This is where I learned about flirting and foreplay–to brainstorm a while before spilling my guts on the paper, and to do so without caution. 

It was at this point, though, that I began to develop feelings for my craft. It wasn’t actually ever contempt at all, but the humble beginnings of a romance. And a strange romance it was indeed. I wrote about the most bizarre things in order to touch the prompts as lightly as possible–some might even say deranged.

I wrote about squirrels eating human faces.  I wrote about feral children running the world. I wrote about animals breaking free from city zoos, stampeding, and trampling innocent by-standers. I wrote about school shootings. I wrote about the horrors of war and the evil of bombings. And the list goes on and on… This is where I learned to write without limits. Some might even say that my approach to these assignments turned me into a lunatic of my own merit.

I’ll happily accept these indictments, though, because I pursue writing the same way I pursue all things I love: aggressively. I come on too strong. I vomit words that sound great until they’re out in the open. When that idea comes, I run, not walk.  I sometimes send vibes that I need you (the reader or audience) to love me back, to make me feel wanted, or to give me your undivided attention. I don’t. I’m independent in my creation process.

In fact, if I felt like I had an expectation from you or as if I knew what you wanted, it would entirely transform my writing into something that it’s not. I would stray from the topic, and this knowledge would become an unwanted distraction. Distractions not only slow down my productivity, they flat out irritate me. While writing, I remove all distractions. When I’m wooing the piece I’m writing, if I truly love it, I am absolutely, unabashedly devoted to it and only it.

As for length, I never think about how much will go into a piece of writing until well after it’s over. I begin each new piece as if I’ll love it forever, and I just love it the best I can until it feels like it’s come to an end. Sometimes, the words break up with me and simply stop flowing. Other times, I call it off, because I’ve come to resent what I once found to be beautiful. This is the only time I edit structure.

When this happens, I stop writing completely and I begin back at the beginning with an axe. I read through everything and I delete anything I find ugly, negative, or clashing with the overall arc. Sometimes it’s just to substitute a word. Sometimes it’s whole paragraphs. (It’s like couple’s therapy, really.)

Unless I come to despise the writing, though, I only spell and grammar check. I leave the rest in tact, as is. If I’ve loved the piece all the way through, or I felt like I was genuine in pouring out my soul, then I know there’s nothing that needs to be changed. I know that I left nothing unsaid and that what I said was precisely what I had to let out. It’s all exactly how I would have said it. It’s authentic.

When I find myself uncertain about my feelings for a particular piece, though–and, this happens quite often–I abort the mission. I’ll have one topic in mind and realize she’s not the one for me only a page in. I find myself being a phony in the pursuit of these topics, usually. Hell, sometimes I’ve written half a dozen pages before I’ve even found real inspiration. Usually the inspiration I find at this, is to hit Control A + Delete. It’s fake. Start over. We don’t do fake, here.

Of course, sometimes I feel as if there’s no love left, as if my love for the words has gone stagnant. I can’t find even the slightest spark. It’s these times, when I force myself to work through the struggles, to fight for my love of the words, that the flowers smell the sweetest. This is when writing hurts. This is when I’m the most honest, because I have to write about myself. I have to dump my flaws, pains, sorrows, and feelings into a piece. It becomes personal. It becomes confessional.

But, when I finish those pieces, I feel the best. It’s like making up after a fight. Or embracing the words after they’ve hurt me. That’s when I know how much the words really mean to me, and that my love for the words is real. And the whole romance comes full circle, my love for the words awakens anew, in a different light, and in a later chapter…the words begin to flow once more, effortlessly, and the story goes on.

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