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The Words of Creative Writing

The Words of Creative Writing

Philosophically, or in the grammar of language and meaning, it is often said that words fail. This is only natural in the ordinary sense of things. Words hardly can be said to even exist; they are frail things in humankind's parade of events and purposes from a biological standpoint. They are mere puffs of air, neurological-electrical or biochemical energy, printed ink on tarnished paper, pixilated video screen letter configurations arranged as mathematical computations, and a few other variations. As you embark on the creative writer's journey, you might consider that what a serious writer is trying to do with words and language is essentially impossible.
Do not lose heart, though, because it is definitely worth the effort to try to bridge the alienation gap between persons by reaching out with a word or thought. Look at your tools as a writer: language, including your ancient heritage of English, French, Spanish, Latin, etc.; the alphabet, grammar, and spelling; a recording method, such as pen and paper or computer memory; and then some kind of sharing method or distribution, such as printed books, e-mail or Web sites, magazines and newspapers, etc. We are not so much talking about speech here but the written word. There are 26 letters of the Phoenician alphabet and all of infinity, the world and its wonders, God, and life to attempt to describe or share. Realistically, it is a task that never can be done.
You might think of it this way. Let us say you want to tell the story of a man who is lying asleep on his couch in the living room of his home. Simple, right? You may start your written story by describing the scene: the man's appearance, the appearance of the living room, the time of day, and so on. You may tell the story in terms of why he is resting there or recent events: He just got home from a very tiresome football game to which he was required to take 20 kids on a field trip, and he is exhausted, or something like that. Maybe his wife just left town for a business trip and he had to drive her to the airport. So, on the surface, this type of narrative writing is straightforward and entirely possible. It makes sense to most people.
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However, because you are an ambitious writer, you want to go deeper into the reality of the moment. You could write about the house: how and when it was built, the materials that were used, what those materials are like and their composition, the design of the house, the architect who designed the house, and his life story. You could describe all of the home decorations, each item of artwork or souvenirs, where they came from, what they are made of, their size and weight, and the artists who worked on them.

You need to tell the man's entire life story from the time he was a child, of course. You also need to tell his wife's life story, and the complete account of the football game he just attended, the history of the team, each player, the outcome of the game, and the lives of each child on the field trip to enjoy the game. The clothes the man is wearing have a history: the nations where they were manufactured, the fabric and qualities of the colorings, and the design. The fabric of the rug in the living room has a certain weave and a certain type of polymer-nylon, chemical-base origin; so this must be completely explored and described, as well as the installation of the rug, and the history and qualities of each stain on the rug. The man's dental and medical records must be explored. The songs on the radio playing gently in the background all could be written about: the artists, the music itself, the instruments used, the recording method, the lyrics, the radio station, and the electronic nature of the radio itself and how it works.

At some point, you could begin to describe things such as the photon-light waves in the room, the pull of gravity on the man lying on the couch, and how gravity works. You could describe the air he is breathing, what he had for breakfast, the complete anatomy of his body, and his biological system. You could embark on a complete description and analysis of the dream the man is having while lying there asleep. The possibilities go on and on.
By the time you reach the atomic and subatomic level of the reality of this scene, it becomes clear to you as a writer that you have attempted the impossible with your grammar skills and alphabet. You could easily spend a few years and write 20 volumes about this simple scene. Then the wonder of your journey expands beyond the man on the couch, beyond his home and his front yard, into the street, the city, the countryside, the wilds of nature; and like a child whose eyes have been opened, all things have become new, and there you are, lost with your pad of paper and a pen, trying in vain to describe the universe.
Madness or meaning? This type of writing, or this type of consciousness, was attempted by the fabulous author James Joyce in his book Ulysses, which is a very tough read for college students. It is true, we can see, that the writer and his language and alphabet are among those in this life who might dwell on such riddles, with the results both for the written works and the writer's mental health only to be revealed through the course of time and effort.
In studies of human children around the world, of many nationalities and language groups, evidence suggests that communication skills are hard-wired into the brain. We are the "speaking animal," and every normal, healthy child will try to speak from a very young age. Indeed, once we start, you can hardly shut us up. It does not matter what language a person finds as his or her native tongue, such as the lost language of Aramaic for Jesus of Nazareth. It does not matter what the child's natural gifts are or the individual burdens of poverty, abuse, neglect, wealth, and so on. The human creature interprets almost everything through this gift of language. People have no other means of filtering reality. As love expands, a person's innate grasp of a personal situation compels him or her to share with others. This too then is the writer's task: recording one's thoughts in words for others to bridge the gap of alienation and share our common subconscious or conscious journey for better or worse results.

Is it possible to love a person with mere words? To create a beneficial or comforting effect in your neighbor's life? To inspire hope, confidence, encouragement; to provide useful information, important instructions, and details about a safety issue; or to court your lover romantically with words as sweet as honey? Can we love one another with words? Or do words collapse under the weight of our needs and the physicality of real things like violence, shortages, sickness, even death? Fortunately, there is no doubt that words can meet our needs. Words can heal, they can bless, they can ease the pain of loneliness and solitude, they can seduce or entice sexually, they can excite and inspire and accomplish many other wonderful things. Certainly, there is no doubt that human events every day entail very complicated activities, often with lives at stake. Consider also the activities involved in commerce, air travel, freeway traffic, and shipment of food supplies. Without words and writing, it would all collapse into confusion and chaos in mere hours.
On the other side of the picture, words can hurt, cause great harm, or even kill. On your path as a creative writer, never doubt that your imagination contains both the yin and the yang, the dark and the light. Humankind has used the gift of creativity in very dubious ways: weapons, crime, attacks, distortions. As you write, you may find you will be exploring stories of horror, terror, murder, cruelty, and so on. Or you may write creative fiction about very passionate and idealistic political philosophies, strange occult notions, science fiction tales about aliens so far removed from our common ways as to seem evil, repulsive, bizarre, and dangerous. Or you may write about a vengeful, angry God, who fully intends to punish every wrong of humanity with hell that lasts forever.

You can write essays full of anger and hate for opposing views, people you disagree with, or lifestyles you do not approve of. Or you can write seductive erotica, with suggestive or appealing sexual situations and adventures, even sadistic, like the Marquis de Sade. You can write about drug use, how to cook up a vat of methamphetamine, or how to enjoy peyote. Sometimes writers will become very skilled at attacks, insults, blasphemy, and organized, agenda-driven propaganda. There really is no end to the negative side of words and writing, just as the happier and more moral side is also an open path.
If you write, your words, ideas, thoughts, fictions, and communication are your responsibility, and perhaps they will bring you great joy. Doing the impossible is easy if you get the hang of it. For now, and into your personal future, the impossible task of words is what you came for.
Mightier than the sword? Could be, but bring your bazooka and a ray-gun to the fight, just in case. And in the meantime, all those great writers and all those great stories may yet cultivate creativity with childlike abandon and a lover's passion, producing many other children in our world of troubles, such as wisdom, hope, kindness, and adventure, who will bring the light of truth to many.
Hey! Did I really write that?

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