I have words to spend and sometimes spend them foolishly…squandering verbs and nouns, sending metaphors askew, and using similes like fireworks whose sparks often fail to flame…*
That descriptive language is the introduction to a book compiled of articles by a small-town newspaper editor, who was also a popular author of a number of books.
I wish I had said the words myself.
The problem is that, in spite of the claims, writers like the one who penned those introductory phrases seem to keep their words in a very efficient bank, making withdrawals at regular intervals, giving instructions to the bank teller to face the verbs all in the same direction, never having more commas in the bottom of the bank bag than will be needed, with none of the adjectives torn or taped together in the center. When their words and punctuation are laid out on the page, they obediently fall into place without complaint, causing nary a note of discord.
My words are not so well put together, having been kept under my mattress for too many restless nights or hidden in the piano, the vibrations of too many early morning practice sessions causing them to settle into an disorganized mess. (Some settling of contents may occur in transit.)
It is a chore to disentangle the active verbs from the passive, and for some reason, the modifiers will dangle. I do have at least a few words to spend, but as I pull them out of my pocket, there seems to be more than a little fluff mixed in. Most nights, I still manage to pull enough of them together to get by.
I had thought earlier of describing the words as disciplined soldiers, moving where they are directed, marking time at that pause, doing an about face at the end of that sentence, and holding a straight line as they march in step with each other.
I have no such words at my command.
It is true that, some days, the words come unbidden, awaiting their turn impatiently to drop onto the page. On days such as those, these posts seem to write themselves, with only a small amount of supervisory vigilance.
I sat at the computer earlier and shouted, “Forward, March!”
No response. Nothing. The soldiers all seem to be AWOL.
Maybe my Sergeant Major act was too intimidating for them. Moving on, I searched under the mattress and found nothing there but a lot of whiny adjectives, and I certainly can’t use them all at once. Incompetent and ignorant, along with a stubborn and idiotic mixed in here and there, would certainly make poor conversation, so they have been stuffed back under the mattress to await another day.
It would seem the jumble hidden in the bottom of the piano can yield no better, with way too many exclamation points making their way to the top.
No. It’s safe to say the bank account is lacking in capital tonight.
Years ago, there was a description for wealthy folks who had lost their fortune. I remember hearing an older well-to-do widow say it once.
I think he is embarrassed.
Those words describe me tonight, and are applicable to more than just the state of my verbal bank account.
Sometimes the result of a stressful day is that there are not enough words which can be found to piece together anything suitable for the readers. Today was such a day, with angry patrons and inept vendors, along with an error or two on my part. On such occasions, perhaps it is better to defer to another time.
Maybe a few ideas can be squirreled away during the daytime hours, to draw interest until the next opportunity to invest them comes along.
I’ll be especially careful to save a few more conjunctions. I always like the way they work together with other words.
I think I can even find a helpful adverb or two to spend, like happily and friendly. I’m sure I can scrape together enough to do something worthwhile.
Can we make it a date, then?
You won’t need to bring anything at all.
It will be my treat.
The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.
(Mark Twain~American author and humorist~1835-1910)
A gentle word deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.
(Proverbs 15:1 NLT)
*from I Have Words To Spend (Reflections of a Small-Town Editor), by Robert Cormier, published by Delacorte Books, 1994.
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved.