While it seemed appropriate to write about the upcoming Memorial Day, my attention this week was drawn to thoughts about writing. For over a week now, I’ve been ruminating on and attempting to digest an Opinion piece that appeared in the March 8, 2014 edition of the New York Times.
Initially, the gist of this piece caused me to feel extremely guilt-ridden. So much so that my heart and mind refused to engage my fingers to take action – or as the old proverbial phrase goes I struggled to “put pen to paper” (or should that be “tips to keys”).
As you can attest to from having read many of my previous blogs, I’m a huge fan and proponent of using and engaging – even resuscitating or weaving new life into – quotations. I split, dissect – even dismember – the almighty quotation. Therefore, as shared by Ms. Konnikova (and Ralph Waldo Emerson before her), I am guilty as charged…as many of YOU likely are, too.
Once one acknowledges – even owns-up to – their actions…what then? Where do we go from here? Do we agree – or disagree – that this act of “lifting” a section of a quotation from it’s original (or “intended”) context and repositioning the fragmented quote (while continuing to cite and give the original author credit) is a “bad” thing (which appears to be the drift of Ms. Konnikova’s piece)? If we’re reluctant to stop this action, are we able to explain or justify to a reasonable group of individuals why we’re unwilling to break this habit or stop this behavior?
For me, quotes have always played a pivotal role in my life. As a strong lover of words, I seek out and harness quotations (in whole or in part) to ground me…to nudge me to pause and reflect. I also select and use quotations to communicate my understanding and interpretation of a set of words that have been placed side-by-side – joined into a team or group of sorts. Come to think of it, aren’t quotations simply a gathering or grouping of words (and someone’s interpretation or thoughts around them)? Is context always necessary? Or is it more important that a useful message be conveyed? Each word possesses the potential to convey a vast array of meaning and can be relevant in their own way. Put a bunch of words together…and out comes a powerful and even poignant message that can be absorbed by each individual.
As with any skill, writing (regardless of the years of experience one has) requires constant and consistent practice. And, just like any artist, a writer oftentimes encounters challenges in their attempt to settle down and establish a relationship with that blank page staring up at them before they can begin to write. Tools – even simple ones – help facilitate that process. They may help inspire, motivate – even excite and stimulate – latent thoughts and ideas.
For me, several specific tools have become amazing enablers. They include a Composition Book (graph ruled, of course, for doodling and bi-directional creativity), a set of quote labels, and a vast collection of gel pens (in rainbow colors to align with my daily mood). Although each tool plays a critical role in my process, the key driver is the set of quotation labels. Each month, an extremely patient and munificent friend selects and gathers a variety of quotes (in whole or in part) – often on the same topic; but, occasionally on a variety of subjects. These quotes – minus the author’s name – are printed on mailing labels. The labels can easily be peeled off and affixed to each Composition Book page. Each label contains a specific quote along with a number. The number is referenced on a separate list which includes the author’s name. I insert that list in the back of the Composition Book. Having the author’s name hidden in this way (but, available for reference or citation) allows me to be spontaneous and visceral in my writing. This Composition Book – filled with quotations – travels everywhere with me on my daily journey. When spirit moves me (often at random times throughout the day), I retrieve this Book, open to the next page…read, review, and ponder (even drift on) the quote and the specific words contained on the page in front of me. I embark on writing down my thoughts, ideas, opinions, and rebuttals – mostly whatever enters my mind or moves my spirit and my colored gel pen – along my writing path. I react, respond and/or offer up my own understanding of what’s being shared in that moment – unfettered by the need to know, understand or have any type of agendas or pre-fixed impressions about the author.
Granted, certain situations exist where isolating or dismembering a quotation from its original (and often lengthy context) may not be in anyone’s best interest or may lead to controversy, misunderstanding, and often wars or alienation. However, dancing with a quote – in an unobstructed and untethered way – may increase dialogue, discussion, and even a broader more comprehensive perspective.
To the concerns of Ralph Waldo Emerson (expressed in his 1849 spring journal notation) (and shared in Ms. Kannikov’s opinion piece) – “I HATE quotation. Tell me what you know,” I would say…I view my writing process as a way to share who I am, what I know and how I understand strings of words in and amongst the world. The written word (even the spoken word) is designed to be deep – and thought-provoking – for me as well as my reader. Actually, if I were Emerson, I’d be flattered to have my quotes (in whole or in part) being “quoted and re-quoted millions of times (plus one)”
Unlike Ms. Konnikova, I do not “shut the whole thing down” when I write or think. Words and the thoughts of others inspire me and can become integrated (with credits/citations, of course) within. My writing is designed to solicit a bi-directional conversation of sorts – either with my specific audience, my readers or even with the words of long passed writers.
Given all this, I genuinely hope some leniency will be given to those of us who choose to travel that creative (but, slippery) path of quotation dismemberment. After all, we do now live in a very different world. As I prepared to close this blog, I reflected on the once famous split-infinitive – banned for years – which is now acceptable. Who’d have guessed?
Crafted, researched and written by: |LIZ CARLOCK
The Write Resources, LLC™
© 2014 EM Carlock