My mother made me a poet. Not necessarily by inspiring me to read fine literature, but by her unique ability to string words together in ways you never forget. I learned from her the power of words at an early age. She had a well developed sense of meter and timing. She taught me never to take words for granted and to carefully measure the effect of the ones I used. I learned to be careful and sparing-that words could build up or tear down, and that even after attempting to take them back, their impact can remain, their sound resonating in your memory like fingernails on a chalkboard.
Writing has always been my passion, at least since I was a third grader in Mrs. Bosshard’s class. Every day that year, I’d present her a new story first thing in the morning. Although considered quiet and much too shy at that stage, I had discovered words could express things just fine if they were put on paper.
In high school, the creative writing class was taught by an “old hippie” with a gift for bringing out the creativity in people. At one point, after reading my rather dark poetry, she called me in for a conference; she was the only person who noticed the depression in process. She paid attention. Years later, two of my children were also blessed to have also had her for a teacher.
When it comes to using words, (both in conversation and in writing), I prefer the short version. Having to add enough detail, and box car enough thoughts to make something longer than a paragraph seems a bit of a challenge, but once the train gets rolling it’s kind of fun.
Writing things out on paper instead of letting them chase each other around in my head makes them easier to edit. I like the “delete” button, the drag and drop technique, and the bold print of emphasis much better than arguing or screaming. Emphasis by italics feels more civilized than clarity by decibel level and can express strong feelings just as well. There’s nowhere left for words to hide when they are displayed in black and white on the screen, hidden in plain sight. I can move sentences and ideas around, try new things, and reformat my opinions (both internally and externally). Making the ideas stand still long enough to be looked at objectively and cut down to size is exhilarating.
Poems and songs are to writing what photographs are to full-length films. They give a glimpse of a moment but they do not articulate the depth, the character development, background conflicts or the interconnectedness of events the way longer narratives do. The fight to add detail continues. I am drawn toward the guerilla tactics of poetry—select the target, plant the explosives, then run for cover before it detonates. I need to learn more patience for the process of development, strategy and written dialogue. Perhaps if I continue to work on written communication and doing the “long version,” verbal communications will become less draining and intimidating? One can dream that being comfortable with words in one setting will make them more comfortable with words in other settings….