how to find the right words
by not defaulting to silence
A quality I really admire is precision, granularity. Sometimes I read someone’s writing and I’m like holy shit… it’s so exact. It feels like someone decisively struck the chord they wanted to, a perfect and beautiful note carrying itself clearly through space. How does this person know everything I’m feeling! Why does it feel like this piece was written just for me in this whole wide world?
Detail is what makes everything beautiful. But getting incredibly precise and attuned to detail is an art form. One that is built on the foundations of practice and effort. Getting precise requires intently looking at something and seeing it for what it is rather than what you expect it to be. Then describing it as so. I’m always trying to get closer to that in my writing (I’m not there yet and it sucks). Often there’s something I want to say, but I can’t quite find the right words.
The default is silence, but that doesn’t really help anyone get better at anything — writing or honest communication. Some of my biggest regrets came from staying silent because I didn’t have the ‘right words’. In hindsight, I always wished I could tell people how I felt instead of cowering behind silence. In writing I wish I could write clearer and more specific sentences. But to get to clarity in either is a slow trudge. To get to where I want to be, I have to keep writing, keep communicating, keep attempting. I can’t be silent. I think of it like playing darts. When you start, most times the dart doesn’t even make it onto the board. You just have to keep throwing darts over and over to get closer (on average) to the center.
There’s that iconic line from John Berger I saved ages ago: nearly every artist can draw when he has made a discovery. But to draw in order to discover – that is the godlike process. So whether the words are right or not, I keep going and going. I’ve been letting go of silence. Instead, I try to say what I truly mean to the people I love. I write down what captivates me. I trust the slow process of spiraling closer to the inward center. These small, unexpected, emergent discoveries make it all worth it.
Quote of the Week
So what if it doesn’t look the way you planned? All of these days still belong to you, and even the greatest disappointments have their uses. Everything is a litany of things, a network of things, each with its own context and purpose. Be careful, when reviewing, not to strip the happenings from their larger meaning. Nothing happens all on its own, and everything has potential for beauty. Is that not your life, huddled against your feet, lying in wait?
What I’m Reading This Week
Finished Rabbit, Run by John Updike (honestly, I hated the main character so much I only finished the book in the hopes that he’d get the retribution he deserved), Boy Parts by Eliza Clark (very dark!), and The Abundance by Annie Dillard (beautiful and lyrical as always). Started M Train by Patti Smith. I also bought a few more books I’m excited to read (Outlawed by Anna North, Black Swans by Eve Babitz, This is Pleasure by Mary Gaitskill)
“There is a type of seeing that involves a letting go” — Dillard
Really liked this Paris Review interview with Katherine Anne Porter: “all our lives we are preparing to be somebody or something, even if we don’t do it consciously” wow
French Song of the Week
Question of the Week: What’s Your Biggest Fear?
One of my closest friends, S, came to visit over the weekend and we spent 3 days non-stop talking and walking. We talked about everything but I’ve been thinking about one particular takeaway: that our fears drive us way more than our passions. What I like about the enneagram personality test is that it encapsulates fear, longing, desires as well as personality (Sasha’s post about this is great too)
Core fears from the enneagram test:
Being Corrupt or Evil
Being Without Identity/Not Unique
Being Useless, Helpless, or Incompetent
Being Without Support or Direction
Being Deprived/in Pain/Being Trapped
Being Controlled or Harmed By Others
Fear of Loss or Fragmentation/Separation
What fear drives you? Email me a reply, I’d love to hear about it.