I am working my way through the book “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White. It is a little book, a mere 78 pages long. What I have read, however, has changed how I perceive language forever. It was brought to my attention that there is an actual relationship between words. Do you know what that means? I know that words can be strung along together to make a sentence or make our thoughts more coherent. We are talking though, about an honest to goodness relationship. That means the words are connected. They almost have an attachment to each other – but it really goes beyond that. As a writer, if there is this relationship between words – isn’t it our job to cultivate it? Lets look at it from the viewpoint of human relationships.
Although there are loners in our world, for the most part humans seek out other humans to spend time with, socialize, feel safe, and bond. We desire that connection with another soul – we love the feeling of meeting someone and experiencing that spark that says there is something more. We might start out tenuous at first, having vague discussions and light banter to grow more comfortable with the other person. Sometimes, though, the feeling is so strong… so intense – we feel the need to connect and we do so with passion. Being a part of a love affair, or watching one bloom around you is a delightful expression of life. This development of a relationship is nourished when the people involved are comfortable and positive. It continues to flourish until the emotions are so intense that weddings are arranged, flowers are bought and dates are set. Hundreds of people then come to celebrate this relationship and give gifts to encourage the continuation of a happy marriage. Friends flock from far and near to spend time around this relationship, soak up the goodness of it and sometimes wish for the happiness they sense to be their own. It just feels right.
What of the relationships that fail – the ones in which there was a cultivation, but instead of a flowering plant – weeds and thorns were grown? Everything in this case falls apart and just feels wrong. People surrounding the ones in this relationship sense it every time they are near, but they often don’t say anything or mutter amongst themselves. Sometimes a brave soul might venture into the fray and suggest that something isn’t right only to have both parties turn on them, making the situation worse. People eventually end up turning their backs on them, even if they continue to use glue and duck tape to keep it together. Their relationship is disjointed, ungainly and detracts from the world around them.
Now lets take these two stories and apply them to words. Haven’t we all read some form of prose in which everything just fit? You wanted to read it out loud because it felt good on your tongue, your lips – your voice resonated with the sound. Your eyes darted over the letters and your mind committed them to memory because they said something to you. This wasn’t just a two-dimensional grouping of phrases, this was something meaningful – that made you feel, stirred your emotions, or created a fire with in you! On the other hand, the opposite has also held true, hasn’t it? We have all read something that made absolutely no sense to us. I’ve been known to read out loud articles or the like when the flow wasn’t right. It’s almost worst than being on a boat in choppy water, you just can’t find the rhythm with which to understand what is going on.
To have all this make sense to me was a true “aha” moment. I love the thought of not just creating a story, but a relationship of words. I adore the quote: “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom” by Marcel Proust. What if we were to change it slightly to: Let us be grateful to the writers whose compositions make us happy, they are the charming gardeners of the words who make our souls blossom. I’m really excited about this. I want my words to have the best relationships so that people flock to read them. Even if I never make it as a successful writer, I will still always be grateful to the ones who changed me and spoke to my soul.