True words aren’t eloquent;
eloquent words aren’t true.
Wise men don’t need to prove their point;
men who need to prove their point aren’t wise.
Tao te Ching
Every man loves the smell of his own farts.
Apparently that’s an old Icelandic proverb. I heard it for the first time long ago, and although I have learned and forgotten many valuable things in the intervening years, that one sticks with me. Go figure.
As tempting as it might be to go off on a diatribe about the relative olfactory values of flatulence, I’m instead going to focus on something slightly more metaphorical, and equally personal:
Writing bubbles up within us. Words and expressions can build up in us until we have no choice but to vent them. They are the output and excess of our daily input. Without relief, our words and ideas can create unbearable pressure. And so out they come, through one path or another. You could even say they are the unavoidable offgassing of our brainwaves, but that would be kind of obvious and eye-roll-inducing.
So we write. And we sniff. And we like what we smell. It’s delicious, no? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve patted myself on the back after a particularly pithy phrase, only to notice the not-well-disguised wrinkled noses of my intended audience. Oops! Pardon me.
I’m guilty of what my mother calls “purple prose” and my mentor calls hyperbole. I use adjectives like cheap toilet paper, regardless of the fact that the need for an adjective usually indicates a poorly chosen word in the first place. Verb tenses are chameleons under my watch. They change as quickly as my mind. I forget transitions, because the subject has already progressed in my own head and I’m sure everyone will dance along, hopping to the next ideas right with me. We don’t need no stinkin’ bridges.
I know, of course, that there’s this magical and wondrous process called “editing” that might actually turn some of my diatribes into something more readable than the phone book. I try. I really do. But somehow once a word has been typed, it’s like a red-headed stepchild. I cease caring for the ones I’ve already released and there’s this great pressure inside of me to let the next one out.
I’m reminded of the sad reject auditions on American Idol. So many of those people believe they can sing. They’re sure that someday soon their great talent will be discovered and they will be loved by millions. Simon is clearly a moron for not seeing that brilliance immediately. Each time I see them, I cringe. Not for their squeaking, howling, wailing tunelessness, but because it forces me to realize that there’s a good chance that I’ve avoided my own truth: my farts, metaphorically speaking, might actually stink.
But still I write. Rainer Rilke was talking to me when he wrote those letters. I’ve been writing, journaling, and penning purple prose since I first gripped a well-chewed #2 in my grubby little hands. I am a writer. Maybe not published. Maybe not well-read. But I love the scent of my own hyperbole and I’m not likely to stop any time soon.
Oooh wait. Do you smell that? MMMMM. Heavenly!
no animals were harmed in the production of this post.