Showing posts with label Writing in the margins. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Writing in the margins. Show all posts

Friday, October 5, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 24: Watershed

Today's word is:

A watershed (noun) is a divide or, more specifically, a region or area bounded peripherally by a divide and draining ultimately into a particular watercourse or body of water.  This is used to describe a crucial dividing point, line or factor; a turning point.  A watershed moment.
Always, I've found, that coming to see Michelle divides little epochs in my life.  The last time I was here, I had the spark of inspiration for a novel.  This time, I am learning to test the waters of a writer-in-the-world.  This is the point where things have come into total clarity (or near-total clarity), and I cannot go back to the former way of thinking about graduate school or how it relates to my worth as a writer.  I am in watershed days now, and I am excited to see what pool these waters eventually fill.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 11: Iota

Today's word is...

Iota (noun) is the ninth letter of the Greek alphabet, used in English to mean "a small, infinitesmal amount."  In astronomy, it signifies the ninth star in a constellation.  All signs point to jot.
I've just learned from Oxford Dictionaries that jot (the verb to write something down quickly) - as in "I'm jotting this down for you" or "I don't give a jot" - is the fifteenth century noun translated from the Greek word "iota" into Latin.  It makes sense to me (this was a "Eureka!" moment for me), because until recently "j" was not actually a part of the Latin alphabet, and "i" had most of its workload.  Iota must have had quite a normal entrance into English through this road: iota spelled with a "j." This opens up a world of writing whimsies for me: marginalia and doodles and random notes.  That thing you're scribbling down may not be scintillating to the person next to you, but it is vitally important.  I jot most of the time and not always on paper - it is the way we translate our stream-of-consciousness discoveries into a more permanent form.  Sometimes those jottings make it to a journal.  Sometimes they clutter my wall.  Sometimes they serve as bookmarks that cannot be thrown away.  They seem to be of infinitesmal importance, but really they're not.  We jot because it is of vital importance.  If I didn't jot, I'd lose threads of ideas that could fill my stories, or I'd forget to do something. 
Jots are like Ariadne's crimson thread guiding Theseus through the labyrinth and out of it again.  If I didn't jot, how would I find my way home again?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 9: Ellipsis (Jillian)

Today's word is...

An ellipsis (noun) is the omission of one or more words that are clearly understood in context but must be given in order to make a sentence or phrase grammatically complete; a sudden jump from one topic to another; and the marks (as in ...) which indicate such an omission or pause.

When I was a burgeoning writer, I happened across the ellipsis and became obsessed with it.  Not in the sense that it was an excuse to be lazy with my writing, but that as I began to create elaborate scenarios in which my characters journeyed and struggled, the ellipsis indicating pause was poetry to me.  It was the only construction - punctuation or otherwise - that conveyed what couldn't be put into words: a character trailing off in thought, unable to bear contining his thought, a break in the middle of the paragraph that could otherwise sound like the space between the stanzas of a poem, an open-ended sentence that the reader could fill in with whatever he/she chose.  I was, and am, drawn to dialogue that sounds natural, full of pregnant and uncertain pauses and allusions.  Naturally, in the early days, I got carried away.

I have pages from my old high school class journal where my writing teacher, a grammar expert, told me not to use them at all, even though I wrote about how "cool" they were.  In high school, anything you're obsessed with, anything that defines you in the remotest way must be defended.  Ellipses were important to me.  For his class, I did my best to refrain from using them but... obviously... I still love them.  It me a while to realize that there isn't anything particularly wrong about the ellipsis, but that if it's being used in place of proper punctuation, it tends to muddle things.  Used sparingly, and I mean once in a blue moon, it can add just the right amount of nuance, the faintest touch of cinnamon.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Shreddings (Jillian)

The photo below is a window into my endeavors of the summer. I have become the Duchess of Shreddings. In scanning writings and musings from 1997 to 2000, I produced three of these boxes. Once I am finished with 2001-2002, I may have three... or five more. And I won't even think about the pile of paper from my last two years of high school.

Quite a feat, and an amusing one to boot. I'll admit, though, that there is a bit of wistfulness mixed into this scene, the tangle-y nest of paper strips that once had been the products of a determined pen. But it is no tragedy. While the thumb drive lasts, so do these whispers of yesteryear.

I was once told - at the very very dawn of my writing - that I should save everything because "you never know if you might need it." Honestly, though, I am starting to see a personal statute of limitations of that sort of need. In other words, if it sits in over-crowded binders for five-plus years, it is probably not as needed as it once was, and should be retired. Retired with Honors in the scanning ceremony, officiated by the Duchess herself... in fond memory.

This process has reminded me of long-dead ideas and failures; like looking back through time, I see my younger, early-teenage mind at work editing and creating in multiple colors of ink scratching out little details or changing a vital character's first name (sometimes several times, depending on my mood), asterisk-pocks in the margins, and prompt Xs over paragraphs that just didn't work. I may not ever use those ideas, characters or stories again, but they are still with me... and can fit in the palm of my hand.

So this is a shuffle, and an archiving ritual... not a chance to dance around a bondfire of my old self. After all, these words, as rough and uncut and unrefined as they are, are still a part of me.


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