When Writing Isn’t Enough

Writing is my drug. I am a junkie for words. The more time I spend getting thoughts out of my head and onto paper (or into a text file), the more time I want to spend continuing to do just that. I let hours dwindle away without so much as a glance at the world outside my imagination. I have been known to pause mid-shower to step out and make note of a brilliant idea that just popped into my head. There are times I cannot sleep because the creative engine in my brain is chugging away at top speed and conveniently forgot to replace the brakes before it left. I crave the grip of a pen, the delicate tapping of a keyboard. It enslaves me. It is my greatest and most euphoric high.

Like many writers, I am a keen observer. I look for life’s little nuances, the ones that point to the potential for a great story. I notice things that others might not. I capture fleeting moments not with pictures, but with words.

So what happens to someone like me when words fail?

Everyone has experienced a moment like that. Looking out over a colorful sunset so powerful not even a photograph could capture its beauty. Thinking about someone you love without a clue how to describe your feelings toward them. Moments that are felt so deeply and wholly that they are impossible to articulate using mere language. These miraculous fragments of our lives are what define and motivate us, and yet they cannot be shared in their entirety with anyone. They belong to us alone, pieces of our deepest selves. No matter how many times we try to explain them to others, they will never be so firmly integral as they are to us.

The challenge of capturing these moments is undertaken every day by writers, photographers, musicians, painters, and countless other artists. Many have risen to the occasion and created masterpieces so moving they can bring an audience to tears. But a vast majority of the human race lacks that seemingly innate ability to express the inexpressible. We face the unfortunate possibility that the people who experience the most profoundly life-changing events are among those who cannot describe them. That scares me. And it also scares me that I might be one of those people.

When I witness a moment of true beauty or clarity or raw sensitive emotion, I commit it wholeheartedly to memory. I notice the way it feels all the way into the tiny crevices of my bones, cementing every piece of it into the very essence of my being. But I am perpetually tormented by the idea that I might never be able to to find the words to share that moment with anyone else. Even now, as my fingers hover over the fading letters on my keyboard, I worry that the words I’ve penned today have not successfully conveyed the enormity of this issue, and of my own fear and disappointment.

The greatest tragedy in a writer’s life is realizing that not everything is expressible in words, and that some moments live only in memory. But perhaps it is also a blessing. If the one certainty is that words cannot always be sufficient, then writers are unquestionably human, and thus are defined by that which is beyond the depth of their craft. When writing isn’t enough, we live.

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5 comments

  1. Love this! I too love to write; it is so cathartic for me, but you are so right…there are moments and feelings that must be lived and experienced. Check out my blog. I think you’ll enjoy it!

  2. I feel the same way about painting. I’m beyond terrible at putting my thoughts down on paper, but when I cannot explain something I see colors and textures and somehow find a way convey it. Reading your blog seriously inspires me and I’m so very happy to have you as a friend

  3. I have felt this way before. Actually, when the words don’t come, I usually am most happy, because my feelings are too exuberant to express what’s going on (if that makes sense, lol).

  4. I always go with the power of implication when I hit moments like that. The human mind has the wonderful ability to fill in the blanks with it’s own experiences. Great piece!

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