Saturday, February 6, 2010

For the depths of what use is language?

Words are hard things. I say this as a writer, as someone who has been playing with words for as long as I can remember. You'd think I'd feel like I knew how to use the English language by now.

The thing is, I don't think in words. I think in pictures, and in order to get into your mind some semblance of what's in mine I have to interpret the picture. Sometimes that's easy. Sometimes it feels like playing this game I've usually heard called "Telephone pictionary" where you draw a picture and the next person gives it words and the person after that tries to draw it again. It never looks quite the same when it has to go through the medium of words.

So sometimes, I just describe the pictures rather than interpret. I tell the Cobbler that I feel like a baby unicorn, because the picture that my mind is giving me to describe the emotion I am experiencing is a scene from A Swiftly Tilting Planet, because "I'm happy" doesn't do it justice.

He gets it, most of the time. Would you get it, dear readers, if I gave you pictures straight out instead of words? I feel like I spend too much time on this blog worrying about things being exactly right. I feel like I worry because I am, essentially, translating into a second language, and sometimes there isn't a word for what I want; sometimes it takes too many words to get out what I could say in a few if I spoke metaphorically.

I suppose this is a long way of warning you that this blog might get a bit poetical for a while.

The title of this post is derived from the poem Silence.


DavidD said...

"Shaka, when the walls fell."

The Sojourner said...


Maybe I'm really an alien baby that you've been raising all these years.

Melanie B said...

Interesting. I hardly think in pictures at all. Often I have to really work to clearly visualize scenes in books.

Shakespeare's Cobbler said...

The funny thing is I'm not the best visualizer, am an audial-calculative type, and yet I get it most of the time because... pictures and homeric similes are very similar, actually.

Now, I don't tend to get it when I have no point of reference to work wiht the image whatsoever, but I haven't noticed The Sojourner thinking that way nearly as much as I've noticed inscrutible poets writing that way. "Oh, well, the leaves falling off the tree symbolize x." "I could only know that it's that and not just leaves falling off trees if you told me the tree was y." vs. "It's the sort of losing-something feeling like the leaves falling off trees." "Makes perfect sense." (Actually, it usually goes more like, "It's like thus-and-so is a tree and the other thing is the leaves being lost in the fall." "Mmm, yeah.")