A Requiem for My Wanton Words

The Purpose of this Delenda: A Limbo Between Digression and Deletion

During my last college semester I studied under a brilliant professor; he taught me to quiet my inner censor and to just write as I wish--despite my post-traumatic-professor-disorder which paralyzes me with self-doubt, these the war-wounds worn by so many students after years of terrible teachers, each either entirely apathetic or deeply entrenched within the utterly rote—their lectures just jaded regurgitations in Power Point, those slides cycling while the students fitfully sleep in-seat.I began writing a memoir for his class and I have yet to finish it; my writing has not been as clear and precise as it was while under my professor’s mentorship and I have more than doubled my original page length, though very little has actually been said therein. I am increasingly lent to my own obsessive compulsive writing tendencies. My prose has of-late been lost in loops and tangles of meaningless tangents—self-indulgent insertions of the beautiful words I love to taste in text.This blog is a collection of passages deleted from my memoir—an attempt to preserve wasted words, which are intrinsically sacred in spite of me. May they have their heaven here; may this final resting place, this Delenda, be better than nothing at all—better than true deletion.

If this unjust medium--this blog--be not the cure for my wild-fire writing, then surely The New School will be.

I was recently accepted to The New School in New York City for their MFA Creative Nonfiction Writing program for Fall 2010. Being accepted into such an esteemed university, being awarded such a coveted spot in their writing MFA program -- it's like winning the academic lottery. I have never been happier than I am in my dreams of a true academic setting. I know this will be the solace I have sought since being under the mentorship of my undergraduate writing professor.

This is me...

This is me...

This is me as well...

This is me as well...
In Death Valley, the Sand Dunes and Solitude Suited me Well.

October 26, 2008

Procrastinatory Prose

I don't know why this memoir of mine is suddenly hard for me to write; I still average 6,000-7,000 words a day--sometime much more--but I'm no longer saying anything. The story is not moving forward, merely harping on--it's as though I'm actively procrastinating with my words...playing with alliteration for too long...metaphors leading to metaphors leading to metaphors until nothing is clear: long, quixotic sentences that are beautiful at first, but clause begets clause until the entire sentence is swollen with imagery, weeping like a puss-laden wound and puckering at the very seams of my syntactical creation, the pressure mounting with every new word and pointless insertion until they burst forth like infectious fluids escaping afflicted skin--and then I see the sentence for what it is, for what I have made it, and when read it is heavy and meandering; it is ugly and it and fills me with disgust--disgust at this open sore on the page which I continue to aggravate and soil.

Perhaps the story is subconsciously painful--though, I honestly feel emotionally disconnected from these memories, the only real feeling with which they leave me is one of exhaustion at the very memory of those tiresome times.

Perhaps, then, I am simply too tired to write these things; but what puzzles me most is that, when I was first writing this memoir as part of a project for a special-problems writing seminar I had the pleasure of being a part of during my last semester as an undergraduate, during the time I was writing it for class I wrote with speed and precision and never lost my self to these procrastinatory periods wherein I write so much and yet say so little--I managed to write over 100 pages of this memoir (about 36,000 words) in the last three weeks of the five-week summer course for which I was writing it, and at least a quarter of those 100 pages (I think the best of those pages) were composed over a single 25 hour period, where I wrote straight through, only taking a few five-minute breaks to drink water or use the bathroom.

That was the kind of writing I thought I would always be able to do, and while I still tend to write for long periods of time, stretched out over sleepless nights, I no longer have that coveted-ability to write outwardly instead of inwardly. Now my prose produces wild loops and tangles of dead-end ideas and meaningless tangents where I self-indulgently find ways to use all these beautiful words I love to taste in text.

Now, as the memoir approaches 200 pages, I realize it's taken me twice as long to write the same amount I wrote while in school, and not for lack of will or work-time; it's as though I'm battling some unseen force just to say something worth a damn! It's terribly frustrating, and worse still--no one seems to have this problem--blank-page writer's-block is oh-so common, but this sort of 100-page procrastination is hardly such. I am alone in my compulsion, in my debilitating love of words.

Here are a few passages I'm deleting from my memoir this week, but in an attempt to preserve them somehow--as they are so sacred in essence, and far be it from me to be their judge, as I would never dare fool myself into thinking that I, their humble medium, were somehow worthy of deciding their fate, the fate of these sacred words--I will leave them here; this Delenda, their final resting place. May they find their heaven here, in this silly little blog, this sad waste of Internet space--my contrived confusion of words so shameful it is a waste of even that which is unlimited....the world wide web....a world-wide web of words awarded a far greater justice than that which I have allotted my own. This is their requiem, a prayer for their fate in this afterlife of sorts. May it at least be better than nothing at all, than true deletion.
Taken from page 127--Part Three: Reclusions--From my Educational Memoir "A Solace for Scholars and The Academically Scorned"

As I sit and survey the damage to my apartment as it is now, I see it lay in spoil; a sad and dilapidated devastation, barely even an abstraction of what it was. Now I live in a ghost-town vestige of a strategically decorated home—a life lived in the memory of lovely things, the listlessness clinging to the walls cigarette smoke in seedy motels, the old, tattered furniture still swollen with the imprint of solitude and yet, still my belongings are belolled by echoes of the past, their shape and color preserved just enough to be reminding, still ghost-laden with vague familiarity, a couch buried in books and papers still bears a pallid memory—the self-image of its show-room days—a designer dining set remembered as it was in its prime, before the chairs served as a stray cat’s scratching post, and the table—as a poorly chosen place to practice oil-paint art projects. The fall of my house happened too slowly to see though the disparagement advanced too quickly to cease entirely, and I watched the saturnine demise of what was once my high-rise haven—the steady downfall of my physical existence to both my health and to my home was, in truth, nearly unnoticeable until it was too late—like an overgrowth of vines snaking their way up the outside walls of a house, a movement that can’t be seen in increments and being something likely to flourish and thrive unnoticed.

Like the real world I left for books and dreams, my home reduced to ruins and still apander to the errant forces that loom and haunt in my absence, the decay that ensued while I indulged in lengthy periods of compulsive reading and writing, and though my brain prospered in these mental immersions, I was becoming more and more detached from the tangible realm, and, neglecting hunger pangs and sleep-sick fits of lethargy, quickly languid reclusion would leave me too frail to withdraw from mind, soon faint-spells and fevers befell my body, my flesh in the tantivy throes of utter depravity, and like the unseen approach of physical decline, illness and death a stealthily and creeping affliction—much like the leeching, throbbing tendrils of succulent vines—and it’s the subtlety of an ivy’s invasion that allows it to slowly swill entire houses as if they were bottles of beer gone-flat. Once the sight of flourishing foliage is too encumbering to be visually ignored, by then it has probably become so advanced in its wayward ascent that hardly a brick or window can be discerned from beneath the thicket, and the sight of this elicits the kind of surreal awakening back into the physical world; a world for which the process of falling had been slothfully slow, while as for the awareness of that fall: it is strangely sudden. My home was not swallowed by creeping vines but instead, by my own wandering mind, though still the sobering site was the same, as a house in the wakes of ruin, ripped apart by the leafy twists and tangles dexterously dismantling a forsaken fortress from the outside-in, a team of vines claiming vengeance upon all works of the human-hand, nature taking back the houses made from stone and wood—I suppose when a house falls by way of nature, the degradation is a kind of justice, the earth’s revenge against the creatures who continue to rob it with great irreverence of all natural resources, which lends the image of a house slowly torn apart by vines a certain poetic justice, the romantic notion of human artifacts repossessed by natural forces, our great stone monuments seized in plain sight and at the hand of simple organisms—the plants, trees and streams—a return to harmony as the earth heals all the we’ve plundered; the acres of wasted rainforests, used as fuel to feed our cities’ sprawl. Eventually even the most avid dreamer will notice the disparagement of their assets within the living world, and the awareness of this lurches you back to the realm of the real world, where houses fall and humans starve in the absence of the mind; these dreamers present in body as much as is a sleepwalker interacting with waking-world around.

This lucidity always falls upon one suddenly and almost always after it’s all too late, when a towering stone fortresses has already been devoured in slight and silence—not by fire or storm—but by the merest of force; a slow consummation by growing, leeching leaves. Though it was by slower forces than even that of the patient ivy plant—by dust and dogs and other forces which I have yet to catch in the act of ageing, though in studying the shelf-ridden objects that ornament my home, it seems that the things I cherish the least are those which fair the best in the absence of my attention—the effects of letting dust collect on surfaces and allowing spiders to drape stacks of old textbooks in silken strands are effects which seem to be slower to occur upon the mundane and negligible of my belongings—equally, it appears the lovely yet useless artifacts encased in a china cabinet decompose rapidly when left unattended, and these fixtures which I tried to preserve even as I felt the physical world crumbling around me, soon even the glass cabinet doors failed to shelter the crystal and china from the suffocating effects of mental withdraw, all in time beginning to show the wears and tears of years-yet-to-pass having sat too long in the absence of an admiring eye. The sudden reawakening into your body, when you wake up from weeks spent in a walking-coma and you abruptly feel a flood of bodily pains--the language of the flesh which speaks in varying dialects of discomfort and it is our ability to discern the demands of our body, though this act of being fluent in the foreign language of flesh is something that most people practice with near innate comprehension, the reason for this ease is something which I attribute to the fact that the majority of people, is in general, at least evenly divided in their devotion to the needs of the mind and the body and further still, a great number of those most would call “normal” are seemingly more engaged in the physical realm than that of the mental, and by quite a large margin.
Rest in peace, dear tangent.

October 21, 2008

Laggard Lucubrations of Another Sleepless Night

This is my first entry in what I hope will become a daily treatment, as I am suffering from a very unusual affliction for which I believe this blog to be the cure: I worship every word--not because I write them but because they are, and in-fact, I feel my work is a great abuse to our sacred tongue; my disjoint mind churns out a partially-digested puddle of pedantic bombast with erratic punctuation, heavy subordination, and tendencies towards liberal use of prefixes, passive voice, arbitrary adverbs, archaic style and metaphors that meander from tangent to tangent until they read like the rantings of a madman. I'd like to think that's style, but it's more likely a budding insanity; though, when I say that, I hear the melodrama in the worn-out word and I feel better telling myself it's normal to be this obsessive and tangential--to be so fractured in thought and yet to have the words come so quickly fervent fingers can hardly keep the pace.

I am a writer--ringing affirmative--just in the wakes of graduation, my undergraduate being in Philosophy (minor in English) it's not hard to find the source of my archaic usage; I learned to love the ancient texts which I so passionately poured over for years, and it changed my creative writing a great deal, altering my internal metronome and rythmic feel for syntactical resolve until I was hearing a poetic melody in older works of philosophy and literature alike--and because a large portion of the texts I studied were the lovechild of laborious translations, always (for the translators worthy of their title) there was such a reverence for the precise meaning of words--especially those jargon terms too sacred to translate in text, at best a brief mention in footnote--not just in direct context, but in subtle sub-texts, allowing for double-meanings and bad-jokes only emerging when left in the original language as well as for the possibility of an alternate translation, because the really important words are too risky to be definitive).

This kind of attention to precise translations often means the sentences are organized, well, backwards--for lack of a better term. They at first can seem awkward--certainly outdated--and they lend the work to a style distinct among even those sharing in a common era, as it is at least partially the idiosyncratic effects of true-translations in ancient texts that allows for strangely-structured sentences and extraneously specific, often pretentious-sounding words, all cradled between an endless series of commas and semi-colons, placed with rhyme though rarely with any reason.

These crowded clauses go on forever, and if I allow for even the most momentary indulgence, my mind will run away without me and my sentences will reach the upward lengths of 130 words or so--however, (not to boast on my own behalf, but...) never have these sentences been grammatically (unless you pull the passive/adverb card) incorrect and certainly have they consistently been correctly punctuated--even if it's often erratic, when i check the clauses and other structural elements in compound-complex sentences, even the most mangled passages are in-line, over a hundred words contained within the bounds of a single punctuated-period, and alas, I probably didn't say much in the span of those paragraphs and pages. I am currently working on a memoir which began as a class project and, with the encouragement from my professor, who oddly enough reviewed my long-winded nonsense I had hoped would pass for prose with a consistently enthusiastic approval, and with his prodding soon-matched by other professors in the department, I turned out over 100 pages during his five week summer course.

The memoir I am now writing is the half-finished product of my class-project turned epic-memoir, and taking his advice I have followed my muse, though she leads me neurotic obsessiveness and lends me to sleeplessness and despair; I'd have it no other way than this. Sadly, most of my words are wasted--deleted in my fits of perfectionism and ending in hours of aimless revisions--it's a shame, yes, but so much of what I write is just....there's no word...I have no word for this because I've used them all--I've used them all an then some, I've actually found myself nearly-inventing words, so astray from their original stem or sandwiched between out-dated prefixes and awkwardly modifying suffixes until they are hardly the same as the original word that I irreverently contrived until it was a monster of my own creation, a crutch for my incessant chatter. Most writers stare at a blank page for an hour when feeling "blocked" and many express their discontent at their inability to expand upon a simple scene or idea, unable to turn short stories into novels; they just don't know what else to say; this is NOT my problem.

These are the essential antithesis of my problem. I am addicted to words--the way the sound in union; I am afflicted with an affinity for arbitrary alliterative; I love the passive voice and I'm livid forced to live in a world run by Zinsser and the like; I will never kill my darlings; As Proust once mused, we have lost our appreciation for the intrinsic value of words, of sounds, of the real essence of language itself: art for art's sake, words for words sake--not to be plucked from page simply because they fail to serve a function--they are not things of instrumental value! They are valuable in-and-of themselves, like the human soul. I'll have my adverbs always, even the extraneously extraneous ones. Is it proper? You could argue it's not. Is it enjoyable to read? I'm sure for most it's not, with the exception of a few scholarly linguists and the ever-dwindling literary niche-dwellers within the academic community.

But please allow me to be clear: I do not want precise writing; I want my writing to be beautiful.

At least I know of a few who don't think I'm a hopeless hack entirely, but even if I were alone, to be alone with the words that are so much my very essence; my droning dribble a mirror into which I peer at length, and therein, I finally see myself clearly.

Because I refuse to comply with the rigor-ridden demands of embittered journalist who regurgitate that same tired mantra: no adjectives to spare, no adverbs if possible, always in the active voice, kill you darlings...kill you darlings...kill you darlings, leave nothing but the very rote and requisite, because beauty is boring these days and we must never allow ourselves to commit the blasphemous act of boring the apathetic audience with an adjective here or there. Just the facts, ma'am. Because I'd sooner die than ascribe to this unspeakable crime against the written word, I equally can't bare to accidentally obey their rules...I can't, in good favor with myself, delete the fruits of my labor, the sentences born of sweat and tears, too precious to discard entirely, even when they are repetitive and over-blown.

But I can't just let these passages continue to take up dozens of pages between details in a scene I was describing, only to become distracted upon making some minor revision mid-paragraph, and from there I fall prey to what I call "inward writing" rather than "outward writing"; I literally write something completely unrelated to the scene or story at hand, right in the middle of the action or dialogue.

These are the things that shall become my daily delenda: a place where I can send my musings into the void, never to be heard from again--or if they do compel some outside response, no one can possibly tell me what I don't already know (and loathe).

These will be the home to orphaned metaphors, rambling tangents, and a place where I can write all I want and yet not feel obligated to say anything at all. Following in the way of Charles Ives, the greatest of the greats and still before his time, I will think of this blog as "the book which no one reads"...