On the Love and Hatred of Words
Does it sound dramatic? Writing in Blood? Pretentious, even?
It might to you. Especially if you’re a writer, professional or otherwise.
If you’re not a writer, it might seem somewhat mystical.
Writing is not mystical, it’s damn hard work. Now, the use of the word “damn” here is a nod to Samuel Clemens, who once said something along the lines of “every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’…” replace the word with “damn.”
Rather damning advice for the word “very,” don’t you think?
I told a budding writer recently that I don’t trust writing advice when the advisor dislikes a word. Certain words. Any words. How can you love writing, yet dislike the damn tools of your trade? Sure, there are plenty of other words besides the ordinary “very.”
But then, if you’re a writer, you know how mystical writing actually is, specifically within the ordinary.
Maybe I should define my terms: Mystical… synonyms for the word include supernatural and magical. However, the third definition down: spiritually symbolic.
What else could possibly capture the nature of writing? Taking things that are of the earth, then transforming them using the human spirit—in order to commune with every human spirit—using words.
I think we have it all wrong. The garden behind your house is mystical. We simply take what occurs throughout each season for granted. Ordinary miracles. But they lack the panache of master magician’s trick, don’t they?
We stare, riveted to the stage, as he uses sleight-of-hand and misdirection to mislead our perception.We applaud, ooh and ahh… all the while knowing, deep down, we were simply, willingly, fooled.
Mystical things occur right in front of us, all the time. They occur in the most ordinary circumstances and ways.
And what is more ordinary than blood? Almost every living thing has within, its own lifeblood. So why would it sound mystical, at best, pretentious, at worst, to say I write in blood? I write in it, I write with it, through it, and today, about it.
Blood has infinite, spiritual symbolism attached to it that not only ties us inextricably to each other, but to the words we, and others, choose to pen. Those who work with all the passion within them are said to have “poured their lifeblood” into their labors.
How many quotes are there about writers and blood? Bleeding on keyboards, inky veins, pens dipped in bloody wells…too many to count, it seems.
So, to those who “damn” the word “very,” or any other word, I pose this query: how does one distinguish the height of, say, the former-star center for the Jersey Nets, to the Philistine warrior, Goliath? Well, Gheorghe Mureșan is 7’7,” which is, well, tall. According to historians, Goliath was almost 10-feet in height.
I suppose one could write that the former is tall, the latter, taller.
But does that sentence truly capture how John Stockton felt as Gheorghe towered over him, arms high, as John tried to pass the ball?
“He’s a giant,” his teammates told him, I’ll bet. But it took Stockton, standing toe-to-toe, to truly see how damn tall Gheorghe was.
Does it capture the terror young David might have felt at seeing Goliath traipse across the blood-soaked battlefield? Verily, I think it mattered damn much to the first man, sent to face Goliath in one-on-one combat. Did he ask, nerves wracked, “Just how giant is this giant?” And did his fellow soldiers reply, simply, “tall”?
So how and why does the word “very” matter much, if at all?
Once I held my hand up to John’s—my entire finger-span didn’t go past his palm. Were his hands big? Huge? Humongous? Yes. They were damn huge hands.
Now of course, one could argue the many ways to write of size and height. But that really isn’t the point, is it? The point is this:
Writing is the earthen form of the human spirit, mind, and thoughts—made readable, shareable, understandable—using words. It’s our speech, how we communicate, how we share, how we connect.
And I can’t for the life of me imagine saying, “Thank you so damn much for joining me on my blog today.”
Sure, I could write “Thank you for joining me…today.”
But it doesn’t quite capture it: how very, very, very, very, very, exceedingly grateful I truly am, damn well. At least, not for me.
Because within my spirit, within my veins, pumps ordinary blood. And I write-out my deepest love and longing with each stroke of the keys. So, to me…words, all words, have their place in the miniature miracles, occurring within our ordinary, and extraordinary, minds and spirits.
All words are holy, and they matter.
They matter very much.
Writing in Blood is neither mystical, nor is it simply ordinary. It’s both.
And in order to plumb the depths of what is it you want to accomplish when you write, you must first decide how deep you wish to go down, and in.
In other words, Writing in Blood is a deliberate choice…
…a damn, damn, damn, damn, damn, important one, in this writer’s damn humble opinion.
Peace to you, and, as always…
Je te vois—