So a friend of mine happens to be taking a creative writing model at NTU. A couple of days ago, he received his… not-quite-so-amazing results. Of course, the first thing he did was to jump into our Whatsapp chat group and rant about the professor’s inability to ‘appreciate his flamboyant linguistic capabilities’. Apparently, the professor had left a rather interesting comment about his ‘beauteous tapestry’.
“Too many difficult words,” he had said.
Another of my friends quickly interjected, “WOW TOO MANY DIFFICULT WORDS. I HAVE ONLY HEARD OF TOO MANY EZ WORDS.”
My fingers jumped to my keyboard, poised to spew out a lengthy text about how being a good writer is not about using chim words. But then I stopped, and I thought.
What does it mean to be a good writer? No, more than that, what does it mean to write?
Ah, difficult words. Beautiful, wonderful, difficult words. Rare little gems, found only in those discreet corners carefully littered across the yellowed pages of our books. (or LED screens, if you prefer.) Mystical forces of language, capable of igniting and dancing with our emotions. Of course, a couple of them are pretty ugly and some of them have meanings that are a little bit unnecessary… but I digress. Yes, difficult words. Wieldable only by artists of the greatest caliber. Or are they?
So I posed this question to myself. What does being a writer mean to me?
I’ve always been fascinated by the English language. In particular, I find it amazing how each word can carry so many layers of hidden meaning. Two words, so seamless in definition, yet worlds apart in terms of connotation. The shape, the length, the sound. ‘Fire’ and ‘flame’. There can be as many different connotations as there are people living upon this Earth. And I think that’s beautiful.
From my perspective, there are no ‘good words’ or ‘bad words’, no ‘difficult words’ or ‘simple words’. Each word is special in its own way, and brings with it its own unique brand of linguistic flavour to the mix. Sometimes a more lesser-known word fits more snugly into the space between your sentences. Sometimes it’s a rather easy word that fits the bill.
Each word has a different place in my heart, like an array of thousands of musical notes. They hum and sing, strumming the sheet of paper before me with each brush of my pen. To me, being a writer has always been similar to being a composer, or a chef. I love to listen to the music that bleeds from the spaces between my words. Experimenting, playing around with them, trying to find melodies that resonate with my heart.
Yes. That’s what I believe being a writer is all about. Weaving the words. Alone, one word can only do so much. It’s up to us to connect the missing dots, fill the blanks, and create something that will be greater than the sum of its parts. Writing isn’t all about the words you choose. It’s about the spaces between them, the waves that bounce from vowel to vowel, consonant to consonant. Each a single instrument. But together, a mighty orchestra. An orchestra with which we seek to move our hearts, and to move the hearts of others.
“Your art was but an exaggeration,” the professor had said.
Now, I haven’t seen the essay that my friend wrote, nor am I aware of the processes by which he conceived it. And I don’t want to judge. Because I don’t believe in the existence of ‘bad writing’. All writing has intrinsic value, because writing is a product of the human heart and mind, and human beings are beings with value. So to my friend, and to any other writer out there in the world who may be feeling lost or weary, rest at ease. Your writing is beautiful.
On the other hand, it is possible for a writer to take a step down the wrong path. In a way, writing is like acting. The audience can tell when you’re faking it. And your readers can tell when you’re just trying to force in difficult words and phrases or crafting crazy metaphors that don’t even make sense, just to make your writing sound more impressive. That is pretentious. That is not writing. That’s called putting words one after the other.
But if you truly believe in what you are writing, if you truly feel the beat of the words in the depths of your soul, then I believe that no matter how plain or how sophisticated your writing may be, your feelings will definitely reach your readers. And their hearts will sing. That’s right.
Writing is from the heart.
Published on Symbal 21st October 2015