Thursday, November 29, 2007

Words, words, words--and naught but questions to show for them

All writers are discontent. That's because they're aware of a potential and believe they're not reaching it. - William Saroyan

How many words do we utter by the time we die? How many do we write? Is there a ballpark figure of how many produced between the first 'mama' and the fevered adolescent diary entries and the memos and emails of work and the last words we gasp out? Does the number vary based on profession, for example computer programmers writing X words, and writing teachers, thanks to grading and feedback on drafts and their own side projects, writing X times 3, and songwriters and poets writing about as much, thanks to re-writes and unreleased songs/poems? Do the words count if they're in any form of code or programming language? Does music itself count as writing? What is, really, writing? Where does it leave off at simple words? Where does it pick up with ideas and concepts? Does a word count as "just" a word if the ideas it suggests are vaster and grander than those small scribbles on paper or bits and bytes on a computer screen can capture?

I ask for an important reason: Last night, I was convinced I had run out of words, a scary prospect for a verbal person like myself. And a ludicrous idea, really. The words are there, but they're under pressure from other things. I've still got words in me. Obviously. I'm just a little stressed.

I've heard it said that before a writer can be good, s/he has to write about a million words' worth of bad writing. Where am I on that scale, I wonder? That's what led to my initial question, actually. A million seems arbitrary, but if there's an average number that people use in a lifetime, it would seem that at a certain point, adeptness would enter the equation, so to speak. If that's the case, it also leads me to question when the majority of words are used. For example, it seems like now, in my early 20s, I'm using far more words than I ever have, but there are other times in an average lifespan when words are important--when people have small children, when middle age hits and there are nagging questions and insecurities to work through, when it gets later in life and there are stories of heritage to pass onto the next generation.

Hmm. And I'm blurring the line between regular communication and writing, grouping them under the broad umbrella of "words." Is that as it should be? Or am I just full of it because it's day 29 of November and I'm digging at anything I can to make a post for the day?

My formatting's wonky. Thanks for the hint, Blogspot. Geez.

1 comment:

AnotherWriter said...

All writers are discontent. That's because they're aware of a potential and believe they're not reaching it. - William Saroyan

this quote has always scared me! I think I am a lazy writer, not writing out of fear perhaps more than actual laziness. I don't usual lack the words, I just don't take the time to form them or share them. Meh.

You made me think at least :)