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Rules of the Road

My comments are merely a departure point. It’s okay to change the subject.

Disagreement is allowed, welcomed, encouraged.

When you post a comment, it will come to me first as an email, before being posted to the page.

You can include your name and email address in your blog post—or not. Just make it clear to me what you want to do. Anonymity is okay. I will not post phone numbers.

I may edit your words slightly, but if I do, before I do, I'll send you an email with the edited text, and get your permission to post your words as they've been edited.

Profanity (to a degree) is fine, but mean words are not, and I won’t post them. For the purposes of this blog, I’ll be the judge of what “mean” means. Advertising is not okay.

Thank you for your participation.

Marc Wordsmith - About Marc Wordsmith - Marc Polonsky


Words of Influence

Today I thought about a verse from an old pop song made famous by Rod Stewart over 30 years ago, "Every Picture Tells A Story." The words go: "I firmly believed that I didn't need anyone but me/I sincerely thought I was so complete/Look how wrong you can be."

Most of the song is unbearably inane, but those lines, which I first heard at age 13, made a profound impression. As a child, I was happiest when I was alone. But those words hit me like a warning, and may have influenced the course of my life.

Words bombard us all the time, and the vast majority of them go unremembered, but now and again a statement or phrase sticks flypaper-like in our minds. We come back to those words, and sometimes they acquire extra shades of meaning, and they influence us for better or worse.

I'm curious what other people's "words of influence" have been. (I won't say "words of wisdom," because that isn't exactly what I mean, although that category is included here.)

There are three quotes that I TRY to pay attention to as I go through life: "You can't earn a reputation on what you intend to do." Attributed to Liz Smith, but I don’t believe that she is the original source. "How you spend your days is, of course, how you spend your life." Annie Dillard "You have enemies? Good. That means you stood up for something, sometime in your life." Winston Churchill Together, these three bits of wisdom tell me to get off my butt, stop hitting "refresh" on my email in search of distractions, and do what is important to me. Easier said than done!
Dina Appleby

When I paint I can feel the tug of mortality. The infinite potential for composition leaves me dumbfounded. I still paint because I know that this sense of mortality is one of the key driving forces of life . . . to stay alive and to share it on many levels. For me it is easy in visual format as it seems less contradictory than words. John Singer Sargent says something like… “Learn all you can or become a mannerist.” In other words, your individual life experience can be the only guide to your composition; everything else is just that--someone else’s ideas or experience.
Shoosty

I'm embarrassed to say that I had my first real existential crisis, as an eight year old in a pizza parlor, to the soundtrack of Kansas' "Dust In the Wind." I think I plugged the jukebox for a replay about five times, my forehead pressed against the glass while I memorized that hard truth of our mutability, the sad wailing strings occasionally drowned by the bells and buzzers of nearby pinball machines. It was only recently that I found out the lines, "Same old song/just a drop of water in an endless sea" were not in fact, "Same old song/just to drop a quarter in it endlessly."
Karynn

The William Blake quote "Only when the doors of perception are cleansed can man truly see the infinite" has been on my mind and in my life a lot lately... I've been reading a lot about art and about how artists see the world and I've been trying myself to see more of what is truly in front of me (without drugs) and it just makes me realize what a true visionary (literally) Blake was esp. for his time. I feel that it's harder more now than ever to slow things down, to really look around us, to really see each other and the world. I'm wondering how to "cleanse my doors..." so that I don't only get glimpses into the "infinite," but a good long look.
Cynthia

I often think of a line from a John Mellencamp song: "I know there’s a balance / I see it when I swing past." I also often remind myself "This too shall pass" (author unknown to me), to remember to revel in the good times and not get dismayed by the hard times.
Bill O

When I was in high school I read a poem by e.e. cummings which contained the lines (as I now recall them), "now the eyes of my eyes are open/now the ears of my ears are awake."
Susan

Words and Writing

I've been wondering lately why so few people enjoy writing. I find writing as natural and pleasant as talking. Yet most people speak (and think) far more clearly and easily than they write. I find this to be the case in the realms of business writing, technical writing, and personal writing. People know what they mean—and they can say what they mean—but somehow writing it down is a Herculean task.

This is especially true with creative writing. Some of the most poetic thinkers and speakers I've met will seize up at the thought of committing words and ideas to paper.

Then again, many writers (including me) tend to be socially introverted. We'd often rather write than talk. Writing seems so much more dependable, with much less risk of misunderstanding. With writing, the words are right in front of you; there is no ambiguity or argument about “what got said.” Granted, the written word lacks inflections of meaning that can be conveyed through tone of voice, facial expression, and posture. But a writer can argue that leaving out all those “extra variables” keeps the message simple and direct.

Still, obviously, we cannot live by the written word alone. To feed our souls, we need conversation that is warm, unpredictable, meandering, tangential, humorous, and imbued with multiple meanings. In fact, one of my goals as a writer is to write words that flow like conversation, or like music. (This discussion, for example, does not aim toward a “thesis” or goal. It's an aimless muse, like a Sunday morning conversation over hot chocolate.)

It seems to me that business writing and technical writing in particular are most un-conversational in that their purpose is to get across a very specific and narrow message, as economically as possible. But oddly enough, certain conventions and protocols, which are intended (we must assume) to preserve efficiency in business and technical writing, can sabotage clarity. For example, a technical manual composed in dry, bloodless language may be harder for readers to absorb than a slightly puffier text with a dash of personality. And an impersonal, to-the-point business memo may be perceived as charged with innuendo.

I am interested in other people's thoughts regarding the uses of the written word, and how writing may complement, or at times replace, the spoken word. Does writing help to keep us honest, or does writing subvert honesty more often than it facilitates it?

Here's another example—have you ever written a letter to someone with whom you were trying to “work things out” emotionally? Did it feel safer and saner to put your thoughts into a letter, rather than trying to talk directly? I have done that. And I've been told, “If you have something to say to me, then say it! Don't write it!”





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Marc Wordsmith
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