A few years ago, I dated someone who was also a writer, a very good one. The writer had been a grad student - I think excellent composition and knowledge of nuances is probably important for that.
I’ve been writing since I was a very small girl. I’ve always written as a form of self-entertainment and self care. Writing some things, including most of NOCing on Heaven’s Door, began as an exercise in coping.
This doesn’t lend itself towards analyzing the text and picking word for their incisive value. I tend towards expression over exacting clarity. My fantasy is somewhere I’ve taken the language and thrown it at the canvas of fairytale and myth, swirled themes in. It’s impressionistic. When I write, when I sit down and write 1000-5000 words in a night (it’s worth noting, this is ALWAYS after 10pm at the earliest), I’m not /thinking/ about the words. Or choosing the words.
I’m thinking about the story. What’s happening. Who’s wandering around in the fairytale, and what they’re doing, and how to change my visual thinking into hard 1s and 0s.
It builds slowly, like accretion of sedimentary rock. It does not burst into flame, it does not fall from the sky. I’ll stare at a ridge line in Virginia, wander through several fantasy novels, across a movie, through a spare book of poetry, then meet an exhausted fragment of imagination. This is how I write.
The writer I dated measured, analyzed, repeated. Each word was chosen for the perfect inflection. Every shade of meaning must be appropriate. There would be no broad strokes. Everything was simple workmanship. The words had a spare elegance to them and a careful, didactic use of metaphor.
I actually am talking about two former partners here. My apologies. I am, as I said, somewhat impressionistic.
Here are the lessons I learned from each of these partners.
One of them became an mentor before he ever became a partner. I studied the house style we were both using, and applied it to generate halting attempts at harnessing my own writing. I still use this spare style - generally when it comes to attempts to rein in my adjective use and paragraph construction. His style provides a guide to composition. It has also become my own style, salted with a slightly higher incidence of thesaurus abuse. When we became partners, we wrote no love letters. I continued to write and present the results to him: he continued to edit, much in the same vein he always had. There was no personal judgement in it, simply a sharpening of the existing work.
In our interactions, there was a spare, almost austere romance. He didn’t speak terribly often of how he felt, but when he did, it bore some weight.
The second was a linguist. We never wrote together, prior to or during our relationship. Our projects were strictly separate. They were quite different, these projects: I role-played a Crowleyian figure on a text-based game while they were engaged in philosophical questions and engineering documents. We met in the middle to exchange multi-page love emails that at first were wonderful gifts. Later, as our relationship went sour, our ability to talk to each other through writing slid increasingly out of interface.
As I felt increasingly anxious and unsure of my place in the partnership, what was now word choice critiques, to my eyes, became unnecessary and somewhat cruel. I perceived the emails as becoming more analytical - the sweet words mingled with the feedback became, to me, a distraction from what was actually being said. And what was being said seemed, more often than not, to be at terms exasperated and maddeningly self-centered.
When my partner began to criticize and over-analyze my word choice, I began to tune them out. I stopped writing entirely. I talked to my mentor here and there, and tried to write fiction, but the well was dead.
Writing is my chief survival skill. I cope with my stress by writing. Poetry, descriptive bits, journaling, and fiction especially. I live a busy, overly complicated life that sometimes reads like a novel. My luck is balanced on having faith in a consistent narrative and my own ability to stand up, keep moving, and integrate my experiences as I work towards being a strong, happy, healthy adult. There’s been a lot of shit that has accompanied the luck.
Today, I’ve begun to write again, starting by pulling out my older work and reading it. I’m looking increasingly at the period preceding my block: the first two years I lived on the West Coast, after the tide of the NOC receded and left me in Oakland.
I’m writing myself back together, word by word, sedimentary layer by sedimentary layer, and I have everything to gain.