Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Verbiage Disorder: Method in the Madness?

Phrases perpetually run through my mind; some streak through the darkness in a comet-cascade of light, brilliantly illuminating literary possibilities, terminal ends shrouded in darkness...the beginnings of something, the suggestion of something; like genetic introns that were long maligned as mere redundant code. I am sure this is an affliction common to writers - the verbiage disorder. Symptom: an obsessive preoccupation with words and how they can be manipulated, combined and associated to best express an improvised schematic.

Other phrases tease with the glimmerings of something, but never really materialize... subsiding into the mental depths with barely a ripple marring the surface, remaining obscure despite my best conscious efforts to examine them, turn them over in my mind, with the intent of utilizing them to best effect. But at times, it seems, when one approaches these dim utterances one must do so on the sly, stealthily from a dark corner as if one must seize them unawares; for caught in the full glare of light they can evaporate into nothingness. Isolated words, like individual amino acids in the formation of proteins, are imbued with potential. Some can be teased into existence and others remain stubbornly elusive.

In the solitary endeavor that is writing, it is easy to misunderstand, particularly if you are of medical leanings, anxious to prescribe, to cure, to rehabilitate. For we must appear to be quite mad - muttering under one's breath, considering phrases, rejecting them, tasting and savoring the sounds of words as they are formulated on the tongue, as they are expelled in breath. For Shakespeare has set us a precedent (as have many others) for the poetic expression of voice and I stubbornly maintain the most impossible of standards and aspirations for myself. The words strung together need to express something exquisite - the breath of life - the infusion of humanity...these are simply ink on a page after all. With the right words we create in our reader's minds something more - something three-dimensional and breathing that simply enthralls.

Often it is the simplest of impressions that can be the most powerful; Hemmingway referred to the smell of 'swept dust, wineglass rings and coffee spoons' in a morning cafe, and despite none of these items typically stimulating the olfactory apparatus, one can imagine this scene so vividly -the early light streamed through opaque windows and cast pale golden squares across rumpled tablecloths stained with coffee spills; dust motes (the unswept ones) are caught, held and gilded in the sunlight; the very air seems infused with a heavy fatigue: of revelers departed, of conversations faded, of the diminishment of things. And for the aproned man, who now wearily washes coffee cups behind the counter, there is the languid notion of having seen it all, done it all and still being confronted with the dawn necessity of rising to the task yet again. A winebar that does double duty as a coffeeshop - catering to the late and early trade. Sisyphusian labor. All of these literary extensions run through my mind in response to Hemmingway's incandescent phrase, a coupling of seemingly commonplace words that together invoke magic of some kind or another - magic that stops the breath in my throat and makes my fingers itch. And I want, more than anything, to write, to attempt to capture just a little bit of that magic, to weave the story, create a scene, that evokes so much more than the simple words themselves are able to express.

It is an unceasing matter this writing thing. It haunts my sleepless moments. My characters (who have yet to be fully formulated) hover in my mind like translucent ghosts, gossamer promises of what can be if I can harness the magic of that incandescent phrase. So I mutter to myself, a hopeless victim of the verbiage disorder, with less method than madness I fear - but in utter awe of the transformative lucidity of language.


  1. "It haunts my sleepless moments. "

    Mine too :-) Good ideas come from those moments when everything is quiet.

    1. Thank you Dianna - yes I think our creative potential is more receptive in the quiet darkness...rather like one of those night-blooming jasmine that perfume the air when all else has retired to bed...perhaps it is simply because we are more relaxed in that drowsy interval between wakefulness and sleep?

  2. PJ, as I read your post I'm that child, my pulse once again rises and I wonder WHO ARE YOU! I read this the other night and think okay it's not going to work up the same exitement, but it did.

    Here you say in your post:
    A writer's words are exhaled from the page in a delicate mist, a gossamer tendril of another world that envelops the reader in an imaginative cocoon. The voice of the writer is a whisper in our head, transcending time and space, with literary skill that lingers in our imagination like the fading echo of an exquisitely haunting musical phrase.

    PJ, that is your writing through and through.

    1. Thank you for visiting yet again, and for your exceptionally kind comments - I am so happy that you enjoyed the post!