Friday, January 31, 2014

Collegiate Words

How powerful are words? That was the essence of the prompt we were to write about. We were given passages to read and had gone over different arguments in class. We were given deadlines and goals, and sent on our merry ways.

I read the passages and looked for some conclusion I could draw. I gathered evidence and started organizing. I started writing...I despaired. I couldn't find the words I needed.

Perhaps it was actually that my ideas were poorly developed and thus difficult to articulate, but I found myself spending as much time thinking about the shortcomings of language as I did thinking about developing my thesis and supporting it. Part of me was absolutely convinced that it didn't matter what I wrote--it would be misread, misinterpreted, misunderstood because there weren't words to convey what I wanted to convey.

I managed to finish my essay on time and got a good mark on it, but the revelations I had while writing still haunted me. Words aren't enough. At some point, words fail.

As someone who has always loved words, whether written on a page or spoken aloud or sung, these thoughts were terrifying. What's the point of writing if you can't communicate what you're trying to say because words fundamentally aren't capable of expressing what you want to say? Why am I writing songs if they aren't going to convey the messages I want them to? Why should I talk to people if they aren't going to understand my pain since there aren't words to describe how I am feeling? If words fail, what's the point of trying  to communicate with them?

And one day two things hit me. First, I had much to learn about language. Writing is not only about the words, but about how they are arranged and organized in sentences, in paragraphs, in essays, in stories, in poems. There is so much more to writing than vocabulary and if I wanted to accurately convey what I was feeling or what I meant, I would need to not only master the words but master how to use them. Discover the subtleties of timing and arrangement, literary devices and creative word choice.

But more striking to me was the second thought: When words fail, do. When words fail, sing. When words fail, dance. When words fail, bake. When words fail, smile. When there is nothing else that you can say, there is action. Though words are powerful, they are only labels that we have assigned to things, and there are so many things that we have not assigned labels to. But that does not mean that ideas, actions, emotions, colors, shapes, etc. that are currently unlabeled don't carry meaning or significance, and it certainly does not mean that they can't be conveyed. Words are wonderful tools, but they are not our only tools.

I think for me, that's part of the appeal of music. There are words, but there are also melodies, harmonies, timbres, timings, rhythms, performance. There are so many different ways to convey an idea or a feeling...And if music is not enough, there is dance. There are movements, steps, formations, facial expressions, costumes, lights. And if dance is not enough, there is....

Be bold.


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