Weight of the Words

ball point pen on opened notebook

Many words I’ve written begin as still frames in my mind’s eye. The words I often refuse to write involve the recurring nightmares gnawing at my soul many a morning I awake, echoes of a past life unfulfilled; even now, as I’ve overcome so many long-thought impossible obstacles, these things still haunt me, upsetting me both physically and mentally. Where once I felt a lust for life, I often now now feel solemnity. Growing up ain’t easy, so was it worth all the while?

For weeks at a time, words will escape me almost entirely. Then, sentence fragments will fall like the first snow of a winter’s prelude. Other times, bits of song lyrics taken out of original context attach themselves to thoughts still taking form. All of a sudden, often without any warning, phrases will rain down like hail nearly smashing me in the skull, although many of them never quite connect. Those that do, in between the lines and even the punctuation, there’s some hidden meaning implied even I sometimes fail to fully decode.

Still, greater messages still live within the words that likely should be written, but haven’t yet taken form. These moments of inspiration are just a beginning with an often frustrating middle and disappointing ending; so, when inspiration leads to something noteworthy that I can relay through a few paragraphs, I feel fulfilled at least for that day, before soon feeling the urge to seek out further inspiration.

I used to wonder if it was worth connecting all the dots once you knew what the picture was, as the mystery arbitrarily solved often seems sufficient as its own reward. Words, sentences, and paragraphs do their work as long as they allude to something sufficiently interesting. It seems the more concise the form the better. Openness of interpretation, while dangerous, also adds new dimensions worth exploring; keeping your routes of exploration at least somewhat open keeps the work fresh. You never know in which ways you’ll inevitably expand to incorporate new thinking without ever actually taking a new form on the page.

Opening lines, thesis statements, and hooks can sometimes appear without warning in my spontaneous note-taking; eventually, they pile on top of one another without any reasoning other than they happened to spill out at will. At some point, I’d expect the momentum of a productive brainstorming session to help the ideas gel, yet sometimes the words themselves will betray their original intent, taking on their own slightly different meanings. It perhaps would make my writing more accessible were I to come across as less of an arbitrary thinker and more of a concrete doer. Yet, even as my words may suggest a hope towards concreteness, the original impulses that made them necessary to form can be quite fleeting.

Sometimes, I imagine that I imagine my own wild intellect. At times I feel like a fictional character in a choose your own adventure story that’s gone off the rails. Other times, I feel quite assured that I’m but a spiritual being sometimes overwhelmed by physical shortcomings, lack of energies, and environmental factors that keep me from my best avenues of expression. One more enlightened than myself may suggest there are other less visible imbalances I may yet be able to correct to overcome these maladies. Still, I believe our temporary nature wandering this earth makes these pursuits of a supposedly perfect balance not quite worth the effort. A little imbalance may, in fact, be healthy; at least life becomes a little bit more interesting if you embrace the ebbs, flows, and chaotic shifts in life, even if at times life becomes a bit less tolerable.

My writing is about fifty percent inspiration and fifty percent miscellaneous, often extraneous, factoids and observations that people don’t seem to figure out for themselves. Perhaps my words being composed at a reading level beyond graduate school does me a disservice; but, my mind can’t seem to organize my words in any more concise or easily accessible manner. When I have aimed to bring my writing down to a more commonplace vernacular, it seems that the weight of the words disappears, and my writing falls flat.

Trying to sound brilliant all of the time is really no fun, and it can actually be quite unbearable when you’re not even trying to be. Believe it or not, I wish I knew how to straight shoot and be a great orator or at least speech writer. Alas, what you see is what you get. Even if I know I’m right about something, and try to be sufficiently rhetorical in my thesis, lesser minds often try their best to prove me wrong. It doesn’t matter if I put forth a convincing and well-founded argument; ignorance tends to put a stranglehold on the human ability to reason for no other reason than to create a feedback loop of intellectual frustration that leads minds like my own to hide away and become hermits. Perhaps my greatest intellectual regret is that I’ve wasted so much of my mind-space and brainpower trying to rationalize human beings; it’s not worth the bother.

Because I’m beyond convinced that writing a book isn’t going to provide me any commercial success, I no longer have the aim to be publishing a book a month, a ridiculous goal I set for myself in my young adult years. Still, even if I’ve decided to eschew a traditional book writing path, it doesn’t mean that the words that come must necessarily be barred from being anthologized in some yet unforeseen manner. For me, it’s more important to produce something worthwhile than something necessarily having commercial applications. Do limitations actually force and cultivate additional creativity? Are we not limited enough in our finite capacities for labor? All the while, humans seem to have an infinite capacity for nonsense. What may appear to be scattered likely all comes from the same root inspiration. Were you to spend enough time connecting more dots, crossing more tees, and dotting more eyes, countless revealing realizations may appear before you.

In the past, my words often lacked the punch of conviction. They weren’t chosen quite so carefully, often mimicking styles of the masters, literary and otherwise, without truly taking on their own personality. Disconnected from the reality in which they were created, many of my essays, especially academic ones, were often feeble attempts at achieving a higher state of consciousness about often brutally simple topics.

I often wonder if I’d been born into a different native language, would my writings be more clear? They would perhaps at least invite the opportunities for some clever translations. As it is, our thinking is often held back by our personal mastery of language. Indeed, even the least literate among us can have brilliant conceptions, but unfortunately lacking the communicative skills to express them, these inspirations often die well before their time.

Indeed, I continue to write some interesting stuff. Most of it even I don’t understand as I first write it. Later, with the passage of time and the gaining of perspective, I sometimes will at least know what I was getting on about. Oftentimes, most stuff I write I’ll regard as nothing but rubbish, even if technically, it’s not. When I grow frustrated with a piece of writing, it’s mostly because it’s not as clearly worded or deftly stated as it could be. Even now, though, as I try to squelch the bullshit, it’s certainly not beyond me to write line upon line of pretty sweet nothings that amount to nothing but noise. At times, I’ll still write just for the sake of writing and out will come completely inconsequential topics. But, hell, every time you write is another practice session, so it’s a blessing in disguise.

Still, I often marvel at how people are so impressed with my writing. True, I have a natural gift for putting together words, mostly in the area of written expression. Unfortunately, my oral skills sometimes leave much to be desired. Indeed, it’s not at all uncommon for me to say the exact opposite of what I meant to say, or even something completely and unintentionally different! My horrible habit of rambling in speech sometimes carries over to my writing. The advantage I find in writing is in poring over my notes, I’ll occasionally stumble upon a gem, often happened upon by complete accident and actually unrelated to what I intended to cover.

For all of the faltering I’ve done in dedicating myself to the one craft at which I have mastered, I still feel that my words, no matter how numerous, are simply inadequate. It is this feeling of inadequacy, most importantly a lack of a substantial weight to my words, that has held me back. Why do I care if external forces impress upon me the notion that my words, and therefore my skills and talents, are not enough? Many great philosophers have postulated that, if we exist, then clearly we are all that we’re intended to be. It’s then our task to uncover what stuff we are truly made of, not to ever give in to whatever notions others may attempt to impress upon each of us. Unfortunately, this wisdom, despite seeming to be commonly said, is rarely heeded.

My issue has long been that despite my talents, which may be better termed as predispositions favorable to being a philosopher, I fail to cover for weaknesses that would make me a true academic. I am fascinated by so much, yet truly attracted long term by so little. I greatly prefer to be a generalist than a specialist, a key reason I’m shunned by the writing profession at large, thanks to the growing specialization of the world into which I was born. In past centuries, I likely would have become revered, or at least more appreciated, in my quest to understand all that I can. I refuse to niche myself, and that is seen as a weakness so strong that it prevents me from pursuing most meaningful occupations, at least those common sense would lead you to believe have actual meaning.

I question more so every day that passes whether Life for any of us has any deeper meaning at all. What we see as our lives may all just be a cruel joke being played on us by unseen forces. More likely, it’s simply all a wonderful accident and inevitably we simply return to the dust from which we came without any happily ever after. For all we know, we live day to day within a cosmic scale situational comedy; human beings are but the plucky comic relief enjoyed by God and His troupe of angelic playwrights.

The greatest issue with human beings, however, is not that we are dumb, believe it or not. People have developed such intellectual inferiority complexes; I know this because I continue to try overcoming my own. It’s extremely difficult to convince people that most folks aren’t actually half as dumb as they believe themselves to be. People are certainly not as stupid as they act; otherwise, we’d be living in total chaos right now, not simply the maddening cluster-fuck which still has some light at the end of the tunnel we currently enjoy.

Maybe we are all screwed, and we just will continue to deny it until our Sun goes supernova or someone presses the big red button. Well, I refuse to be the pessimist forecasting our ultimate demise here, whether or not it’s inevitable. Normality really isn’t that cool, you know. In some ways, I prefer the chaos, as it’s much more exciting to write about!

Therefore, I must continue to buck every trend, especially in my writing, because if I’m successful at anything, it’s being unconventional. The only thing I still have to work on is to continue to write with more conviction, Eventually, the weight of my words, even if they don’t impress the way I’d prefer right now, as a body of work, may well prove to do so.

P.S. I do prefer a side of mayo with my chaos, but unfortunately, it’s all made with soybean oil now, to which I’m highly allergic.

Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy.
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