Letter W is all about words.
A to Z entries: My post for each letter of the alphabet will be anecdotes or musings based on an element from the previous letter’s post. Names always changed, events always real.
~ Letter V was for Vanity and its different colors, and now for the different colors of…words. ~
I love words the way other people love dogs and ice cream. Sometimes I hoard them. I can’t part with some word combinations even if they don’t belong in a piece. In fact, this entire post is made up of scraps and disjointed notes that at first did not belong together.
Every thought around which I form a sentence or paragraph, I collect somewhere in case it fits in future writing. Portions of previous social media posts and blog entries lie dormant until I find a permanent, more relevant home for them among other sentences.
I treat them as if I’m an oyster and each of them, a pesky spec that took me years to make into my pearl of a phrase.
It’s as if keeping words might infuse me with their power to seal, break, play, soothe, provoke and teach. Or pass time in a new way.
I used to worry about all the ideas I’d forget if I couldn’t make note of them fast enough. But through the notes and scraps, I saw that I unknowingly repeated so many of the same thoughts. It turned out that if a thought wasn’t restated, it probably wasn’t important enough. Instead, soon I started worrying that I had exhausted all of my own personal recurring themes.
For example, there was a time when I wondered, why are there so many men strewn into these posts? Since when did Gunmetal Geisha become a dating blog? But I learned to leave myself alone. The posts are about how I navigate through life, and a cast of characters, some of whom are men, is one way through which I’ve been shaped and marked. “Growth” would be mostly irrelevant if there weren’t anybody in the world but you.
But letting go of words? It still worries me.
The more you write, the more refined becomes your skill of cutting, shaping and distilling ideas. Your feel for the rhythm and pacing of words becomes second nature.
You’re contemptuous of blatant clichés, and spend a lot of time taunting your mind to come up with an original thought to replace the fitting common cliché. Sometimes the cliché says it irritatingly better. Sometimes you don’t even know if “original thought” and “blatant cliché” are clichés. At least you stay away from adages. Instead, you make up your own and give them an obscure name like Cathartic Monkeyism.
But when you learn that you’re not the first to call each piece of your writing a birthing, you’re ruffled. Did you resort to a cliché without even knowing it?! You suppose you could’ve said it’s like “passing a stone.” But let’s face it, that’s simply not the same as “birthing.” You never stop second guessing: Just said “let’s face it.” At what point does expression end and cliché begin?
Maybe you should start a chart that keeps track of the gestation period of idiomatic expressions before they become full-on cliché.
You evolve past the point where every time you write a paragraph, you have to lie down for a few minutes. You accept that there’s always a shorter way to say something. You know that if you’re imparting information, the quicker you allow your reader to register a thought, the more of your thoughts they’ll willingly grasp. The short route is the better route, unless of course, there’s a spectacularly scenic one. But even then, too many adjectives are hazardous to your sentences.
Still, cutting is painful. Essential. Painful. A horrid dance of the two. When I cut, I have to create a separate document entitled “Cuttings” to serve as a graveyard for unused sentences.
If infinite songs can be composed with the same finite notes, does it mean if you don’t record a particular melody, you might lose it forever? At some point, you hope to become enough of a writer that you don’t have to hold on so tightly to words.
There was a boy, nineteen, in Paris, when I was around twenty. His name was Michael Lerchl, and he was Austrian. I don’t mind saying his name, because once I returned to New York and he to Vienna, we had a yearlong exchange of letters before he disappeared into the world. I never got over needing to find him to make sure he existed int he first place.
So I print his true name.
Ours was a platonic three-week relationship in which we ran around the quatrième and the nightclubs of Paris.
Lana and I were traveling through Europe together for the second time, and by then, we were expat regulars at Les Bains Douches, a Parisian nightclub on par with Studio 54 in its heyday. One of the nights at Les Bains, Lana ran into a pretty blonde acquaintance. The two girls hugged, and Michael Lerchl quietly stood by.
He was the brother, it turned out, and I was surprised to find myself relieved. From the moment he introduced himself and shook my hand, we could not stay away from one another. He would show up every morning to the hotel room I shared with Lana. He had breakfast with us, walked around Paris all day with us, and at the end of the night, saw us back to the hotel and left until the next morning. On the occasions we were alone, Michael and I sat forehead to forehead in cafés, monument steps, or on top of statues, wordlessly gazing at each other. The absence of words too, have meaning. Sometimes we touched cheeks and palms.
It’s strange to think of him now, and realize he was a teenager. He was lean with hazel, doe-shaped eyes that were almost too large compared to the rest of his exquisitely chiseled features.
We were both angst-ridden philosophizers. At a café, over Bordeaux served in a tea glass, I went on and on about how lost I was. He listened intently, and I kept going on until he finally put up his hand and said gently, “Okay, stop now.”
It was the sincerest gesture I had experienced from anyone up to that point. He only meant to listen to me as long he heard me, and once he stopped hearing, he wasn’t going to pretend. That sort of frankness was a European trait, and I adored him for it.
This is how Michael marked me: He asked me how I saw myself. I said, as a writer. He said, well then, you must have boxes and boxes of your writing at home.
I did not. It was then that I realized you cannot be a writer in spirit.
All these years later, with all my digital “boxes” of writing, I would be able to look Michael in the eyes and call myself a writer.
~ Part of the A to Z Challenge ~
A post a day except Sunday for the month of April to cover topics beginning with each letter of the alphabet.
Cathartic Monkeyism returns in May.
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