The Wisdom of Words

These are some trying times. Things are difficult for me personally, and they are also hard and stressful for a lot of people. It seems like things have turned upside down and inside out. Soren Kierkegaard has a quote that captures this feeling perfectly. He writes,

What if everything in the word were a misunderstanding, what if laughter were really tears?

What if indeed! We have all experienced this kind of pain. More importantly, we perform it every day. So, to expand on Kierkegaard, what if the misunderstanding was really just an inability to see, hear, or understand?

I’ve been thinking about the word melancholy and its poetic nature. Susan Sontag once wrote that “Depression is melancholy minus its charm.” I wonder what it is about the word, melancholy, that makes it charming. Certainly, sadness is probably the furthest from charming one can be.

Perhaps children maintain charm in the face of sadness. Maybe we think that way because we don’t take the sadness of children seriously, much to the detriment of the children.

Poets and philosophers speak of melancholia as if it is a bridge beyond sadness or as Eli Cioran notes, it is “an appetite no misery satisfies.”

Fundamentally, to be sad and to be melancholy are the same. However, one of those words feels more despairing. This is the wonderful thing about words: they can demonstrate degrees of a feeling just by the feelings generated by the word.

But all is not lost. Herman Hesse has this to say about melancholy:

I began to understand that suffering and disappointment and melancholy are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but to mature and transfigure us.

Well, if I am going to be transfigured, I wonder what I will become?

In any case, are there any good poems out there that can assuage the intensity of your melancholy feelings? Leave the titles in the comments below.



In Which We Commence with the Editing

In the immortal words of Dr. Suess,

So the writer who breeds more words then he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads

Welcome to this place, a place concerned with words. This little spot in this little corner of this vast web is animated by the power, flow, rush, and rage of words. One word after another, arranged just so, to communicate just this and that in some shape or another in order to tap into the infinite power of words.

But before one hits publish, one must edit.

And that is why I am here.

Welcome to my blog! This blog will concern itself with the arrangement of words in the stories we tell. Fiction or non-fiction, poem or prose, academic or popular culture, salacious or real Christian-like (or Buddhist like if you will), it does not matter; if it is written, it will interest me and hopefully you too.

As a writing teacher, writer, and academic, I have done plenty of thinking about writing and grammar. Sometimes I think it is important, for the sake of affect, to leave the errors in place. There are occasions when those errors need to be excised from the text. This blog will be the place where we discuss those decisions.

What I am looking to do here is promote the idea of writing as an art. The editor that I aim to be is one that understands this simple fact.

This blog will generally feature writings that catch my eye, writings that help us delve more deeply into the art of writing. One of the reasons I decided to be a copyeditor is because it is one of the few jobs where you get paid to be a professional reader (unless, of course, you are a professional reader). How crazy is that?

It is a dream.

Each week, I will cover a different text, and hopefully, together we can dive into the art of writing.