When you read these words separately, what comes to mind? What comes to mind when you read them together?
Some words stand on their own, as these can. They are special, and they are to be used sparingly. Words like these can lead us somewhere, usually to an experience we’ve had, be it negative, positive, boring, etc. We may not think in single words like these, but when we read them we feel. We bring memories into stories, articles, and statements that weren’t directly stated. And who said we could do that anyway?
Well, nobody did. That is the power of words. They make us remember.
More often than tangible words that can stand on their own, though, are those we find formed in groupings of words (or, sentences). In written works, without the context brought by other sentences, paragraphs, and backstories, a word pregnant with tangibility will go unnoticed and won’t evoke the kind of emotion the writer is seeking to draw out (that is, if the writer is attempting to evoke an emotion at all). This means context is critical.
Any writer will tell you that context drives the way words are read, perceived, and experienced as a whole. Without context, certain words aren’t worth anything. They fall flat. They are empty.
Consider the way the otherwise simple words “slippery,” “sponge,” and “sweat” are used in the following paragraph and note the senses that are woken by their usage:
The heavy sun looms in the west when he wakes. His sleeping mat is slippery beneath his body and his brow is a sponge. His eyes are flooded with sweat. Waking to warmth sets him in a daze, and for several minutes he does not move, soaking under the soft blanket of humidity caught beneath the tarp above.
How have you experienced the way a word, or a word within a context of others, has evoked emotion from you? What did it, or they, do to you? Were they from novels, articles, blogs, a twitter feed? Please share!
In the future I hope to share more of my personal experiences with words, but I felt setting a foundation for those posts was necessary. Hope you enjoyed!
Image property of www.youareawriter.com
Today’s Words of Others features a brief encounter of mine with You Are A Writer (so start acting like one) by one of my latest writing coaches, Jeff Goins. So we’re clear, Jeff doesn’t know me outside of receiving my ping-backs and page visits via Google Analytics. Nevertheless, I’ve decided to have him coach me. One day, I hope to write on my experience of getting to chat with him in person!
Some back story:
I often find myself looking for inspiration. I am a writer, sure, but inspiration comes in waves. Many times, I just need to sit and start scribbling, letting words and ideas flow as they do until something begins to surface. Other times I will have done everything right to prepare for my morning session (coffee piping, journal in front of me, window open to let in the sounds of the city), but after scribbling, nothing really comes to fruition.
Two weeks ago I was seated at a bar in a coffee shop in Manhattan Beach. Outside, the sky was open, cloudless. The streets were slow with weekend drivers enjoying cliff side views. Patrons casually walked in and out of the open cafe threshold. Inside, under a waft of freshly baked bread and hours of brewed coffee, were subtle sounds of espresso being pulled, orders being placed, and men and women in t-shirts and shorts chatting with their friends.
I soaked it in. I sipped my coffee and re-read old journal entries until I felt ready to dive into a short writing session. Though, when I was ready, pen in hand, caffeine pulsing my bloodstream and pooling up energy, I balked. I had every intention of writing, but nothing big came. Nothing came to mind. Nothing surfaced.
So, I did what any procrastinator would do: I browsed social media and read my email instead. After deleting a few I came to one from a feed I subscribe to called Story Cartel. This site mostly offers book titles from authors looking for fair reviews in exchange for a free e-copy of their book. On this particular day came Jeff Goins’ You Are A Writer.
I sat back and stared at the title. I thought how oddly applicable it was to my current situation.
A few moments later my Mac was downloading. When it finished, I read it cover to cover (or however that’s referred to in e-book lingo).
Below is part of the review I wrote for Jeff’s book on Story Cartel. Whatever your craft, I hope my review inspires you to get up and do it. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, read Jeff’s book (you can download it like I did here). You might even insert your craft in wherever Jeff says “writer” or “writing.” I guarantee you’ll find something applicable!
I have been a person “of writing” for the past five or six years, and I’ve even been paid to write for the last year and a half. But, a “writer”? As in one who cannot help but write before the sun rises, and on my lunch breaks, and until wee hours of the morning, as Goins describes in his book? Fat chance.
But, I want to be a writer.
Reading his book confirmed much. Goins is realistic, affirming the calling “writers” innately know in their bones, and also instructive with how to develop the craft into more than just a pipe-dream. In short, he is relational, and then, he is practical.
The first few chapters (or rather, sections) deal particularly with what we writers all know to be true of ourselves but still seem to lack belief in. It is, namely, that we have something to say, and that we know we need to say it or our lives will feel meaningless, or at least lacking. He says, “In the late hours or early mornings, we wonder what we’ll be remembered for, what our legacy will be. While some people are trying to make it through another week, others find themselves succeeding in the wrong things — and despairing as a result.” In this, nothing new is offered (for we’ve all found great solace in the musings on “the writing life” by our other favorites) but in stating the obvious, the intuitive, we (or at least I) are brought into the fold. We are welcomed into the circle to learn then the secret of the pro(s).
The remainder of the book is, admittedly, more cut and dry. This is not to say it is boring. Quite the contrary. It was for me invigorating, like the first portion though in a different way. This second part is Goins sharing his wisdom. We read of establishing our platforms, brands, and connection channels, and learn that more than anything else, the writing business is about relationship with whom we’re writing to and for. Though, Goins always returns to the idea that we are writers for ourselves, and that we cannot be the sacrifice, but must make it. Goins speaks on methods and tactics on getting published (mostly in magazines), offering invaluable examples of his email/letter prompts to editors, and tips on how not to go about pursuing getting published.
Overall, I’d read it again. And again. And again and again, for its insight, being chock full of facts for young writers looking for ways to get into the business, is invaluable. Also, it is affirming to read that it can be done. That it can, has, and will continue to be done by those of us who take the craft and business seriously.
Read it, and then read it again, as I will. Then go write.
I make no promises other than to say I will try.
In an effort to “show up daily,” as one of my new favorite writers and bloggers encourages, I have decided to make each day of the week a different kind of post. This, I think, will encourage accountability and creativity.
Aside: when I structure, or “plan,” something in my life I almost always fail to follow through with it. I speak mostly to ambitions I have for myself that (I believe) will make me stronger at something. Music, writing, reading novels, eating healthy, journaling, exercising, taking a picture a day, meeting a new person everyday, etc. Time and again, I fail, and it’s tough not to feel like a basket-case sometimes. I am pretty good about giving myself grace, but even that’s been a failed rhythm in my life. At some point, I realized that planning and structuring weren’t what made sense to me as a person. As much as I believe in making a plan of action, I know that if keeping to my plans are left to me, I will fail. Thus, something needs to change. My entire approach, the roots of the tree I am trying to grow, need to be planted elsewhere.
I need accountability in my writing. As I posted yesterday, one of the things that have made me follow through is telling other people about what I plan to do. This, I am aware, is sort of a weird psychological trick I am playing on myself, but sometimes we need that. Right? Sometimes we need to lead with something other than our own will.
I also need, and crave really, creativity in my writing. As I already mentioned, I believe in plans of action and I know their value, but my strengths reveal I am far more an artist than I am an engineer. I need to keep creativity brewing or I won’t write, or worse, I won’t believe in my writing.
So, here I am. I am writing, with the accountability of the world wide web, and with a creative structure (that I will admit will probably change) that I hope will result in content I am proud of.
Every Monday, I want to share something from a manuscript I am working on (or, “Manuscript Monday”). Every Tuesday will be “Tactile Tuesday” where I plan to share words or poems (spoken-word or otherwise) pregnant with tangibility. Wednesday will be “Words of Others” where I feature something from another blogger or writer whom I love reading. Thursday will be “Theology Thursday” where I flex my heresies, or attempt to correct them. Friday will be a day of “Free-flow” where I write about something on my mind. Saturday and Sunday will either be one or two posts about a “Street Story” of someone I’ve met (be it in LA or elsewhere).
One other thing. We need each other. We need people in our lives. Whether you’re a businessman, an actress, a construction worker, or a scientist, I’d bet you’d have a hard time making a case that you are where you are today without other people. This truth is universal. We need each other. In my daily writing, I need you. I need my friends, my peers, my critics (especially) to cheer me on.
Will you join me?
Tomorrow: Words of Others Wednesday.
Until then, how have you found structuring or planning to be helpful or harmful in your life? How important have other people been in your pursuits? Feel free to share!
There is something brewing inside of me. Metaphorically, I mean.
It is welling, up, and up, like a hot-air ballon. I can feel fire inside, churning and pushing, burning toward the sky. If it could speak it would be yelling:
Well? When are you going to do it?
Five years ago I rode a bicycle across America with my best friend, Les. It was in every way a pipe dream and it had less-than-incredible beginnings. Over underwhelming and already cooled coffee, and with snacks Les bought from a grocery store one night, I felt my heart leap out of my throat.
Not really. But it felt that way. See, I was dating a girl, and we broke up, and yada yada yada… I mention that in order to convey this:
Every big idea starts somewhere personal.
I can already hear the nay-sayers… “What do you mean, personal? Not everything is subjective… Not everything has to do with personal experience…”
To which I expound: our big ideas are typically reactions to something we’ve learned or experienced. Think about that for a moment.
Everything finds its origin somewhere, and more often than not the things that make us tick, and move, and change the world happen because they’ve latched their hooks into us. They affect us, and we affect the world because of them.
So, in short, I am sitting at a table with Les and Jared, and I, my broken, bleeding heart in hand, say with the greatest of apathy and offhandedness: “Let’s just ride our bikes to New York.”
If I only knew.
Les becomes visibly intrigued. His brow furrowed, his hands caught in the air, like they too are motionless with thought. Jared becomes visibly disbelieving.
“Okay,” Les says. “Let’s do it.”
If I only knew what mysteries, what stories, and what victories would come from that moment!
We did it. We rode our bikes from the beach in Southern California to the Brooklyn shoreline, dipping our tires in each ocean.
There is more to the story, and this year I am (finally getting around to) writing it. That great adventure began with one of the most simple, predictable scenarios. It had a muse (my broken heartedness), it had a catalyst (Les), it had foes (ourselves, our wallets, our strength, the open road), and it had a hero needing to overcome some kind of an obstacle (me). Then, it happened. It happened, and we lived through it. But of course we lived through it!
Lately, I have been telling people about my next adventure. I won’t divulge just yet, but let it be sufficient to say that two years from this month I will be pushing off again, probably from LA, and probably headed south.
When Les and I decided to ride across the country we knew the best way to get ourselves to actually do it was to tell people. We had to answer every obligatory “Hey how are you?” and “Hey, what’s new” with the response: “I’m good, I just decided to ride my bike across America.” This is usually about the craziest thing most people have heard. I became a manifestation before their eyes, probably of psychosis.
This blog (and this post) will occasionally chronicle these new experiences, but at the very least, it will make my familiar itch for the road public.
What kinds of great adventures have you taken? How did they come about? How did your friends respond?
It is with us when we rouse from plenty’s cozy hours of rest; here as we welcome warm, cleansing waters upon half-slumbered faces, yawning into quiet morning kitchens to casually break hunger’s fast.
It is nestled neatly into leather interior, riding shotgun upon early commutes as we treat the noise of world news like nagging mothers-in-law.
It is the steps along the corporate ladder, the heavy oak office doors and dark red mahogany desks. It is the long-anticipated lunch with the exec’s: the lobster and wine on the company dime.
It is the drowsy drift home once again, the passing of the hungry and homes made of shopping carts–the litter, the drunken, the helpless, the drug-enslaved, the weeping, the gnashing.
It is perched alongside under chandelier light, under sirloins and whiskey’s done just right. It is reviewing the better parts of the day’s events with the wife.
It is the closing of the blinds, the excavation of another drink, a subtle boat
in which to serenly
It is unconsciousness upon the arm chair, the blanket of wall street and warm alcoholic exhalation.
It is sweet Liberty ever along for the ride, abused, ignored, and childishly taken for granted. It is she, the most delectable drink we could savor, the preciously inherited liquor of the American experience, tragically guzzled like one glass too many.
Cherish and remember her, you inheritors. Wrap her swimmingly in your arms for your children’s sake if not, at least, for God’s sake.
I wrote a brief personal assessment of 2012 two days ago. Very brief, in fact. As I re-read it I could see Don Miller all across the page.
Yeah, yeah. I am aware that every mid-to-late twenty-something male interested in writing poetry and reading the classics, who has (or is) at one point been jaded with the church but is still convinced of his necessity to be devoted to God, wants also to be Don Miller.
The truth is that there can only be one Don, but there will always be room for new voices. Even if these voices echo those from ages ago, or even a few years ago, we need to be awoken into life daily. This is why we write. No?
Anyway, like I said, as I re-read my personal assessment, I thought: I can write a “Don Miller” book. I’ll get a ton of flack for it, just like Don, because there will always be somebody to nitpick and point out theological, grammatical, or personal inconsistencies. But whatever. For every nitpicker, there will always be five people who might find encouragement.
I have always wanted to write a book. Books even. I intend to with my life. Writing a “Don Miller” book is probably a good place to start because they are autobiographical in nature, lighthearted in prose, and yet still heavy enough to inspire (though as I write this I am completely aware of my naivety–surely Don took months, if not years to mull things over). I think I might have something to say though, just like Don did. The big question is: what in the world would I write?
Don wrote Blue Like Jazz almost completely around a series of interactions and conversations with a couple handfuls of people at Reed. The entire book is brought up around those relationships. Thus, I have been working through the following question: what unique, powerful relationships do I have, and why would anybody want to read about them? I’ll let you know what I come up with!