This title sounds like something you’d pick up in the magazine rack at Barnes and Noble (I should know) but in fact the title is more alluding to the action of writing life, or converting life to writing. And no this is not about the debate between how much from life you should borrow when writing or how much we should pursue veracity in our writing. Instead, this is something I was thinking of as I was sitting in a plane, shooting through the sky thousands of feet above the ground, looking down at a sea of clouds. I just started running off words, phrases, descriptions, feelings, everything and anything that came to mind in one garbled stream of consciousness ramble. It was incredibly fun and reminded me of when I took more time to be swept away in these flowing rapids of words. It made me realize how much of writing can be done without putting any words down at all and how easy it is to practice writing anywhere. It also made me think about the way we use writing to relate to life and the way the internal world, when freed from restrictions, creates without direction or even guidance.
I suppose I should tend to soil of practicality before slipping into the foam of pure theory so let’s start there. For many of us, life is busy. Maybe for some, it’s frantic. You don’t get the time to sit and ponder and create the perfect phrase or pull out the right word because there are a million and other things vying for your attention or that we must do. I realize that maybe we can always make time but even when we do, it’s not always easy to get our heads into the right space to create. Again, our lives constrict around us so that our minds are too busy gasping for clarity that we need to function that no effort can be spared to be creative and spontaneous. This is why, I think that keeping a constant narrative going in your head can be of great use. Instead of writing only when you’re writing, you’re effective writing throughout the day, building skills and keeping the muscles of your mind strong and supple. I’d particularly recommend this for those whose schooling, to paraphrase Mark Twain, has had deleterious effects on their education. Unfortunately when we write for academia or business we are expected to be precise, mechanical. Writing becomes not a living thing but a contraption, nouns the cogs, prepositions the axles, verbs the steam. They must be strung together for efficiency’s sake, not for beauty or because they they fit together like joints. A powerful way to counteract such corruption is to write within your own head being as effusive as you can. Would you ordinarily write in such a way? Probably not since today’s readers prefer economy of verbiage but these inner musings are not meant for them, but for you and your benefit. And this exercise will benefit you in more than just this observable respect.
Now this is the part where I cut all ties with pragmatism and practicality and get all metaphysical. I think that words help to re-enchant the world. The ancient Celts were very protective of words, devising convoluted spellings in which half the letters weren’t pronounced so as to foil those who might encounter their writings and seek to harness their power by speaking them. The Celts saw power in words and believed they could actually affect physical reality. I wouldn’t suggest this is the case in an objective, scientific sense but subjectively it may be a different thing entirely. Buddha said
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought.”
How should this be any different for the world around us? Our perceptions shape our reality, whether it be internal or external. As Hamlet said
“Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so.”
And of course, we think in words.
I believe words have power, a power which is characterized by their ability to define, to abstract a bit of the world and turn it into something that transcends its original tangible nature. In a way, this is I imagine the same place poetry is born from. The word doesn’t just stand in for the thing nor does it replace it. You could say that words can instead embellish the thing being described. You could call a cloud a cloud or you could call it a cool wisp of teased silky filaments. The word that has been assigned to the object does the job but the description goes so much farther to convey sensation and shape. Words can evoke and they can, when used well, spur an alchemical transformation of the mundane into the sublime. So letting the words come and attach themselves to objects in our day to day lives is really a way of experiencing the world in a different way, of breaking through the crust of banality to find something incredible. In the end, we benefit from it as we learn to see the world in ways no one else does and find the connections that tie everything together.
Hopefully you’ll try this fun little exercise if you don’t already do this. It may not work for everyone as everyone is different and approaches things in a different way but it’s something I’ve always enjoyed and so I thought I’d share it with all of you.