Word Hurts

I hit the desk when I write. I stand up and kick at the chair. I shout. I finish a paragraph by hitting ENTER in a parabolic gesture that begins at shoulder level and ends in my hair. I suck the air in through my teeth.

Adjectives cause me physical pain. Similes also. Though I avoid similes. Nothing worse than a fat old simile sitting in your nice words like a cuckoo. Adjectives cause pain because it is rarely obvious what the noun is. What IS it? What is the tree, the sun, the heat, the birdsong, the noise you make with a saucepan in a full sink when you are doing the washing-up after a row? What is that noise?

I can’t write in cafes. I get looks.

I read everything out loud. Everything. Often. I think it is the only editing tool I have. I start off whispering or muttering but when I have been at the desk all day I am talking out loud as though the hearer is in the next room. Or shouting. Also clapping but not in appreciation, as accompanying percussion. Also thumping, as I said.

Furthermore, I write in an accent. This is unavoidable. It is not necessary, I think, for the reader to know which accent. I don’t mean I use a trope of some kind. I just find I write in an accent and it is beyond my control. I wonder if it will change if I write enough words. I wonder what it will change into.

But then I believe people cough using accents. They also scream in fear and celebrate non-verbally using accents. We probably walk and run in accents.

I also write out loud. I explain (and I do this quite automatically) what is happening in the plot or essay to some person and then I write it down. It is unconscious, this thing, this talking thing. It is not a trouble-shooting tool I use when I am stuck. It is something I find myself doing completely unconsciously and not always at my desk. A friend of mine calls this my “dialogic”. It is very effective but I do think it is a symptom of the fact that my brain is a little like a favourite cup that has been dropped and mended a few times and may no longer go in the dishwasher and so sits on the kitchen windowsill nursing some child’s cut flower from the garden rather than the hot and stimulating beverages it was intended to do.



11 thoughts on “Word Hurts

  1. Bet you’d be good at playing dominos West Indian style, then! Me, I have a collection of odd noises that I use to fill the silence, and then I find myself using them when there’s someone else around and get norrible embarrased.

  2. Oh yeah! There am I proclaiming my great opus to the invisible world, testing its rhythms, expunging its rhymes, when I discover, oh no, yet again, that my window is open and the Telegraph readers next door are having their lunch al fresco… whoops, oooch, shhhh, shhhh, shhhh…

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