Two Birds on the Land Spring Migration Tour

Friday, March 30, 2012

Writing and Wordlessness

It is a great thing to know the season for speech and the season for silence.
--Seneca (5 BC - 65 AD)


Wow! It’s noisy out there!  In addition to machine sounds: cars, trucks, helicopters, sirens, machinery of the everyday life in central Illinois, there are WORDS everywhere. There are voices in the coffeeshop, on the street, in the store, there is the TV news, radio news, the internet. Talk talk talk radio, all the urgent, anxiety-provoking voices. There are billboard signs we read in our heads as if they are spoken to us (or SHOUTED), there are newspapers, flyers, posters, and cereal boxes advertising events, ideas, products. And then there are the internalized voices, and the talking-to-ourselves voices making lists, planning, retelling our stories to ourselves (and others if they will listen). Inner voices, but not necessaily the good, helpful kind. These are the words that get in the way of creativity.


As writers, words are our raw materials – but sometimes the words, the trivial drivel, the common and cliché words make the world a sloppy and unappetizing alphabet soup – somehow the word is too much with us.


To find the words that are fresh, trembling-new, alive,wise and true, it might be better to drop out of the word soup into something Martha Beck calls “wordlessness.” 


Is there a switch inside us to turn off words?


Some ways to drop into wordlessness:

  • Meditation

  • Watching clouds (like you did as a child)

  • Long walk in the spring woods or prairie

  • Any truly sensual experience that can take you out of words and into wordless experience

  • Creating "word clouds"

What is a word cloud and how do you create one?  Take a look at the  Wordle website

Wordle is an online tool/toy for playing with words.  You type or copy in a piece of text and the software turns it into a "word cloud" image. Then you can see your words in a wordless way, look at what words stand out, notice juxtapositions you might not have thought of. You can play with colors, layout and fonts. 


Try it! It could spark a new thought or a new way of looking at your own writing.


Here's a wordle I made from a piece about how spring arrives:


Try making a word cloud from a freewrite and hit  the randomize button a few times for different versions. See what words are thrown into interesting juxtapositions. Make a poem out of something interesting you find there.


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