Nov 17, 2012 - How-To    2 Comments

When Words Fail

You might be the most prolific writer in the world, but sometimes words will fail you. Yes, even you and me. Words can’t always express the fullness of the feelings we hold in our hearts: the fear of an upcoming operation for you or a loved one; the anger we experience at yet another war beginning or the next oil spill; the love that fills us when we look upon our friends and family and know, just know, how lucky we are; the angst of understanding that we really might ruin the world for the next generation; the horror generated by more news of murder and rape. Already, this post in almost too cheery for words!

So what does a writer do when words fail them, even temporarily? Often, I write anyway. I allow myself to write about anything. It doesn’t have to be good or significant to anyone but myself. Sometimes I blather on like an idiot. This is what I call journaling and I consider it to be primarily for mental health. Should something significant appear, it is purely by accident. Later I will rip that page or two out and put it some place safe. The rest is fuel for my New Year’s bonfire.

Allow yourself to play with artistic expression that has nothing to do with your specialty. If poetry or prose is “what you do,” but you find yourself momentarily blocked, then draw. You can take a drawing class, but it’s not necessary. I created a whole book of stick figures documenting an anniversary trip Leigh and I made with some friends to a cabin in WNC one year. I had copies made and each of the four of us had a funny souvenir to remember that year. Most often I wrote a poem of our time spent together, but that year just happened to be a drawing year.

As I prepare for surgery on my achilles tendon shortly, I find that I am again at a loss for words. Well, words that you would want to read anyway. Words are often my greatest comforter, but not now. I think they will be again some time after the operation when I’m not laying about in la-la land. I fully expect my vocabulary to return in full. At least I hope so. Right now, and through a great deal of this autumn, I have taken more joy in photography than in writing. I am not a great, or even good photographer, really. I just happen to love taking pictures.

Pictures, at least for the moment, seem to be worth more than a thousand words. All of a sudden, the smallest things glow from the inside out. This gift of seeing more than I usually do, touches me deeply. The beauty, the life and death inherent in every object in every moment, can only be captured in a picture. That’s if the photographer is both good and lucky. And since the invention of the digital camera and photo shop, even the most amateur photographer can feel okay about the outcome. I can take picture after picture and never worry about running out of film or how much it will cost to get them developed. I know my shots are mostly good for reminding me of a special moment of beauty. Still, I find I do have a good sense of composition. When I consider the fact that I’m primarily a writer, having a feeling for composition makes a kind of sense.

Since I am about to undergo foot surgery, I may be delayed in my next blog post– hopefully, not for long. Only until the worst of the pain has passed. Then I will need to write to you, my faithful readers, and tell you what is going on in this strange and crazy brain pan of mine. Then I will be forced to write because my ability to get out and take the pictures I love will be limited for awhile. I feel grateful for all the outlets that exist for anyone who desires to be creative. Almost anything you need with which to express yourself is within easy reach. Just put out your hand and, abracadabra, make it happen.


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  • As a student of the violin and other instruments and one who dabbles in photography, drawing, carving, and clay, I laud your appreciation of the role other artistic ventures can play in a writer’s life. It’s how they enrich your journey that counts, not how good you sound or appear by others’ standards. Nonetheless, I love your stick figures!

  • Beautiful picture. I walked around White Rock Mountain two times last week and took many pictures. Trying to swallow awe and beauty. Capture it anyway. Thinking of you tomorrow. Sending healing.