Friday, 23 May 2014

Our Words are our Babies.

Today, I look out at foliage which, yesterday in the sunshine was lush and verdant, celebratory of all the fecundity and joy that this season is capable of instilling in us. However, through the rivulets of rain rolling sullenly down the window, it looks merely drab today against the grey sky.
Well, we know that May can be fickle but what strikes me is how different our moods can be based entirely upon atmospheric conditions. And how it colours our perception of our situation.

The hopefulness of yesterday has diminished to a mere plaintive murmur somewhere deep down and in its place has emerged a kind of mild despair and tendency to look at the disadvantageous implications of circumstance.

Things are, to continue to allude, albeit tenuously, to an atmospheric metaphor, Up in the Air. The ever-present spectre of redundancy hangs around us all, prodding our fears and insecurities with a kind of imperative to do the things that perhaps might improve our chances of not being one of the unlucky ones. And of course, the rain rains on the just and the unjust, so no level of diligence is likely to increase the probability of continued employment. This is, of course, not an uncommon position to be in. It is a permanent feature of the employment landscape these days for must of us who work for a company and not for ourselves. Such Is Life.

I haven't been writing here much. The reason for this is kind-of linked to the above: Children effectively grown-up and flown the nest and work tailing off, I find a new, more "authentic" (and ain't that the word of the moment!) approach to life beckons. Quite what that is, I am unsure. But I know it does not involve a corporate environment.
So, what is one to do?

Well, these words seem to be flowing rather well here, and this is encouraging: So, flowing words coupled with some kind of compelling topic means a need for a more self-expressive creative project. To this end, I am finally giving in to those of my friends who have suggested, cajoled and nagged me (and you know who you are!) over recent years to write a book. And that is where most of my words have been finding their way of late. It will be about something I know a tremendous amount about and which sounds rather banal when I see it written down: Home Wine making. Ok. No big deal there. But writing it has brought me an existential pleasure of accomplishing something and even if nobody ever sees it but me, a kind of personal satisfaction will have been achieved.

Well, I looked around at all the books on this topic and generally I believe a lot of them are pretty poor, the good ones being written generations ago and much science and economics having moved swiftly on since then. I made my first wine, apple, when I was 12 about thirty mumble years ago. And it was so good I was enthused and soon had many gallons on the go. I must have made hundreds of gallons of it since then. I am, by popular agreement, quite good at it. 
On the left, my very popular P3 Porter and on the right, last year's elderberry.

My damson is to die for and my ginger and banana, (though seemingly an odd combination) when accompanying cake, will make your tastebuds fair sing with delight.
So I know what I am talking about.
The next book will be about the mysterious process of beer making, from grain, in a home kitchen, something I also seem to be good at, by universal consensus. Niche, I know. But I truly believe there is a need for such works.
My all-grain English Pale Ale: 4.4%, golden, fragrant, nutty. Just like me.
But this is not about that. This is about a strange aspect of the process of writing which initially troubled me but now merely intrigues.

Ok, we come here to offer our words freely and often tentatively, and they are of ourselves: A window into our inner workings. The things we do, the idle thoughts that crave expression and find their way into text, appear here. And sometimes people will comment, usually positively about what we have written. And that's all very nice and all.

So, I wrote a few chapters and submitted them to literary friends for perusal and consistency checks and feedback was forthcoming. And I found a remarkable response bubbled up in me!

Our words are chosen and combined in ways which we use to represent ourselves. They are our words. So, when changes are suggested, no matter how well-meaning and sensible they seem, it causes the strangest feeling of protectiveness. Is this just me?

A suggestion for rewording feels like a comment about the curious shape of my nose or the way my teeth have chosen to assemble themselves in my smile. How much does changing what I have written (beyond spelling or grammar mistakes) change the essence of myself I have put into the construction of the piece?

A most odd train of thought and one which I am going to need to go away and think about. Ultimately, I can assess the "corrections" and suggestions on their merit, try them out and see if they flow better or represent what I am trying to say more accurately or not. And then i can accept or reject them.

I never realised how personal the whole thing was!


Librarian said...

It is not just you. This intimate relationship with OUR words is probably something nearly everyone who enjoys writing experiences, to varying degrees.
When I first started working with RJ, one of the things we both had to learn was that we'd hardly ever use the exact same wording to express the exact same fact.
We often write regulatory documents for our biggest customer, an insurance company, and those rules and terms seem very dry to the average reader.
For us, though, a lot of thought has gone in; we always aim to use clear language and short sentences so that the set of rules can be easily understood by everyone who works there and is not open to interpretation.
Sometimes I suggest a simpler wording, sometimes RJ points out one of my sentences that could be misunderstood. We both know now not to take such suggestions as critique of our character, but of a chance to improve. And like you say, we can always either accept or reject the suggestion. The longer we have been working together, the less changes are suggested, by the way - it is a process of learning and adaption, like so many others in life.

The elderberry wine bottles look so neat, all lined up with their pretty pink caps!

Kay G. said...

It's funny, even with my poor writing skills, I know exactly what you mean. I really love lean, spare writing. What was the advice "kill your darlings" doesn't that mean to get rid of some of your favorite over-used words"? Don't ask me, I am getting to be an old lady and can't remember much.
On the topic of your future book, I just read that the USA now surpasses France in the production of winemaking. I can just hear the French now, "Oui, but still, it is not FRENCH".
Point taken, my French brother.
Anyway, good luck with your book. I think you are a wonderful writer and I hope they don't make you make too many changes. Stick to your guns, as well as you are able.

PerlNumquist said...

I do like my wine to look good as well as taste good. Of course the failures are hidden away. The tinned pear (don't ask..) will be made into wine vinegar which I think will work well.
And what do you mean Kay: "Poor writing skills"! Nonsense!
hank you for the compliment. Most of what appears here is knee-jerk, immediate and not edited. It is stream of thought. A book will be more carefully phrased and iteratively polished (I hope) and people who are kind enough to read bits and comment will all get their suggestions considered and probably, at least to some extent acted upon. I have tried some already and feel the essence of the character is still clearly evident. These kinds of books need to be approachable and keeping a bantering style is important to me. We'll see how I get on. Interestingly, I had expected writing to be a solitary activity, but so far it has brought me more social contact than anything else except dance. How pleasing I find this. It's hard work though and makes my work-in-process recovering brain quite tired. I shall persevere though because it feels good.

Friko said...

You made your first wine at 12? Did you drink it yourself?

My Beloved makes wine too, not beer. He now uses only soft fruit or elderflowers/berries. His wine bible is ancient and he can find nothing good to say about anything written recently.

So, if you write your book, advertise it here.

Nobody wants to have their words mauled by others but sometimes it is necessary. You most certainly will need an editor.

PerlNumquist said...

Of course I did! Why else would I have made it? :-) And we had a bottle with lunch that Christmas day. I can still remember how it tasted.
I have solicited some help in reviewing what I have written already. I have discovered there are different styles of "feedback" but that in general the messages show consistency. This is good. I found writing initially to be a lonely passtime. But with this new development, I have found I am having more contact with people rather than becoming a recluse.
So, it's all good really.
You husband's wine bible wouldn't be C J J Berry, "First Steps in Winemaking" by any chance...?