There's a Stranger in my Words

There's a Stranger in my Words

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There's a Stranger in my Words


As I sit here and stare at the Mac
I wonder who sits at my back?
If they knew what I write
Would they curse me and bite
Or start up some verbal attack?

Well, as I walk through the swirling, smoke filled sky of the Hagg-Sauer doorway, squeezing my eyes shut against the reflected sunlight, I thought about how I would approach this project. How to say what I need to say, without saying it in a way that has been said a thousand times, in a million-million words.

The voices in my head struggle to escape to the paper, but there's this thing in between my thoughts and your eyes...my mind. Language that I would _never_ actually use in speaking to someone seems to just flow, driven by some primal "college survival" instinct, from my fingertips when I sit down at the word-hatcher with an assignment in hand. This has become a real dilemma, as I now struggle for true expression and attempt to beat back the demons of 15 years worth of practice at the 'official style' of writing.

_I feel that I have become quite well adapted to writing the language which has become the "common coin of the realm" at colleges and Universities._ I could sit here and write puffed up, stagnant, and wordy paragraph after paragraph, and still hold the interest of many of my instructors. But that is not my desire...I seek to free my muse from the shackles of formulae, the bondage of format, and the unrelenting ambiguity of "the same old stuff."

When does your _voice_, that engaging part of your writing which bridges topic and audience, become sensible and engaging?

Is it when you _feel it_ working, when the point seems to be making its way onto the page or screen in front of you?

Does it depend more on the person reading the thing you gave them? If this is true, then our discussion begins to degenerate into the absurd...

If the success of my writing comes from you, the reader, then I can never be sure of its effectiveness before talking to you about it, can I? And if this is the case, then maybe it is best that there _is_ a fixed format to write into with college work. Pigeon holes, indeed!

And yet, when the smoke clears and the debris is swept away, sometimes I feel that the real me, my thoughts and feelings, come through onto the page.

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If I am to judge my writing by my own criteria, then I can be happy with writing something like this which is "all-over-the-road," knowing that I am getting into a less formal but still informative and engaging style of writing. But to get to this place, and then to turn something like this in, in a college writing class? Laws, no! It just feels wrong! I haven't developed an argument, postulated a theme, or even followed the strict rules of grammar. This is the real shame, the crux of the thing; I have learned how to write academic papers, but it limits me, almost chaining me into a super-formal way of writing.

My muse speaks to the gentle, pastel hues of spring. It longs to whisper in a sunlit glade, murmur to the lapping wavelets of the new-thawed river, and whistle joyously to the courting sparrows. But, there is no room for softness or spirit in the no-nonsense "official style" we are taught, and to break free of the academic mold (?) we are cast into requires a risky-feeling trek.

The papers that I usually hand in block out the muse, banishing her to a place so remote that when I do choose to call her back, I must first go through a ritual of purification before she can hear my cries; purifying my writing involves many half-assed starts and a lot of wasted time at the keyboard.

William Burroughs, author of "Junky," "The Naked Lunch" and other counter-cultural writing, likes to talk about "...magic in the word. Words are images, and image was the first form of magic that mankind had. When the tribal witch drew the image of the bear on the cave wall, it wasn't there for looks." The point was power, supernatural power over space and time. His big book, the one that made him famous, "The Naked Lunch," has long passages which are comprised of random pages of his manuscript, cut up and put back together in different ways. There are whole chapters which he intentionally mixed up the page order of, and much of his most striking writing is "flow-of-consciousness" writing, kinda' like free association, that is none-the-less interesting and viable. I can imagine trying to give my voice that kind of an outlet...

His back to the future shock absorbed the flowing downhill racing away, sailing across town and country border disputes without resolution. His art formed into little scraps of food lying strewn across the floorboards as he accelerated his heartrate in a whirl of multi-colored smoke filled barrooms, full of disoriented mortals among a throng of gaily lit line dancers.

It is weird to write in this style, and I don't have his knack for it, but Burroughs makes it work:

...cold and far to walk rooming house a shabby street room on the top floor these stairs/cough/the Priest there pulling himself up along the banister he went into the bathroom yellow wood panels toilet dripping and got his works from under the washbasin wrapped in brown paper back to his room get every drop in the dropper he rolled up his sleeve.

Just me, maybe, but it seems that I can hear the cold desperation there. His voice has come through to me, anyway.

If words are magical, then we need to be careful about what kind of spell are we casting when we write the standard five paragraphs we are all so good at writing. No sense filling our world up with anymore negative stuff, huh?

Magic...hopefully this is the power of my voice inscribed on the page before you. If you read and hear my words, my hesitancy, and the discomfort that I have waded through on my way to this paper, then my little spell is cast on you. For a moment my _voice_ is magik'd from the me of now to wherever, whenever you are at this moment. The supernatural power of the written word...

I look out the window here and all I can see are students hurrying from class to class, huddled up into their sweaters and jackets, trying to keep the cold out...That's what I try to do with my writing, too...Hurry along, cover the groound, but keep the cold out.
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