I was laying in bed on Friday night, thinking of the final term of high school. Called the Trinity Term, our English Master walked in the first day, handed us a list of books to read, the books and a list of essay questions for each book.
All we were to do that term was read the books, and turn in one essay a week. The essay questions were complicated, and the essays were to be 999 words. Not a word more. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but neither has ever been my strong point. I am loquacious, wordy, inclined to the use of too many adjectives and adverbs. I modify my sentences, using punctuation to break my thoughts. My thoughts are not short. I went to the English Master, in his office, that first week, and confessed that I didn’t think I could do this. He smiled, told me it would be a particular challenge for me, but he was confident I would rise to the occasion.
I find myself struggling to keep the word count of this blog down, especially now. Brevity requires a sort of confidence, an idea of what you want to say, and then an ability to distill those thoughts into the smallest amount of words. It is judicious application of bottom to chair, fingers to key board, writing and re-writing. Ruthlessness, eliminating what you think is the elegant turn of phrase, into something that is simple and sparse. The discovery of a new type of elegance: an elegance that is characterized as much by what is said, as what is not said. Negative space in an essay requires surety of thesis and thought. You must know exactly what you want to say, and nothing more. It is the lack of clarity that contributes to wordiness, as you circle in and approach your thesis, without ever quite getting there.
With no surety of my thoughts, such briefness and brevity is impossible for me. I am forced to write too much, trying to get my hopes and fears and thoughts out there. They come at me all at once, and I am unable to isolate a single thought, fear, dream, to only write about that. Things are now so tangled that I can not separate and examine.
I am almost mute now. I simply cannot bring myself to face the enormity of a life with no children. I cannot face that these scrap books will not be flipped through by my descendants, that Mr. Spit and I will die alone. I think of Wayson Choy’s book Not Yet, the voices of his ancestors in his head as he lay dying, “No marry, no son’s, no daughters, you die alone”. And I hear these words, and I am mute. My posts this week will be brief, and light. I have not retreated, but I have little to say. I need to untangle enough, perhaps just one emotion, so that I can hold it up to the light and remove its power.
In a sense, this will be an entire week of Monday Miscellany. I beg your patience.