Against Words

I've heard many a writer confess to an obsession-like love for words, but I hate words. That's right, as a writer I actually feel that words are my enemy. Sure I'm overstating my case a bit--probably because I've heard so many literati fawn over how they love to just get lost in words -- the sound of them, the shape, the texture on the tongue . . .

All that's great, but the truth is as a writer I find myself most often at odds with words. At the very least I submit that writers must have a love-hate relationship with words. For though they are our medium of choice, are they not constantly letting us down? I could never begin to count all the times when I'd held some quality in my head feeling positive that there existed some word to capture it, only to find after hours of struggle that there just wasn't. Equal would be the times I've labored to find some concrete way to express something that, despite my efforts, could only be described by a vague abstract word--which really means that it can't be described at all. And still more would be the times I've pounded at the keyboard desperately trying to refresh some notion that could only be expressed in a dead cliche--which amounts again to the same.

These are the moments that underscore my hatred for words.

At some point any writer worth his words then must realize that words are not enough. The struggle of any writer is to create the illusion of reality from the artistic medium that--to me--seems to be the furthest removed from physical reality. Most of the others at least make some direct appeal to one of the five senses. The sensory appeal of words, however, is always indirect at best.

So we are saddled with imprecise, worn out, and abstract tools with which to create the world. Even God had breath and clay. The only thing more difficult would be to some how make art out of numbers.

This then is the peculiar state of writers. Not some blathering infatuation with the wonder of language, but a crippling reliance on it, an ironic dependence that leaves us struggling to render the physical from ideas only, capture the imagination solely through the intellect, and--if we are lucky--make words more than words.

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