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December 18, 2012


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Words don't fail. We (and I include myself) often claim they do as an easy out. But what is really lacking is our ability to use them.

That's what sets Auden and all great writers apart, regardless of genre - their skill and talent in using the tools. Hand me a hammer and a chisel and stand a block of marble in front of me and I could not sculpt the David. I'd probably just hurt myself. It's not that the tools or the stone would be inadequate. It's that I don't have the genius in me. I can write to pay the bills, but I can't write like Auden, Sandburg or Shakespeare, even though I have the same words at my disposal. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't try.

You can argue that writing for communications isn't exactly poetry or elegant fiction. But when done right the gap is not nearly as wide as some might like to think. That's the challenge - not just to write, but to write well enough that the words find even a small place to rest in people's understanding and memory. When we fail to do that, the failure is our own. The words work just fine.

Separate the two, and you will find that your question is solved. A feeling does not contain words, what we do with words is evoke the same feeling in the reader.

Every feeling has a describable cause, a series of events leading to that feeling. If we use words to describe the train of thought or the events leading to this feeling or occuring during this feeling, we can evoke a similar feeling.

It is terribly difficult, hence Auden's lament. Wordsmithing may reach as far as creation of new words, or switching to a different language, to evoke this feeling.

I noticed this difficulty in the discussion about the recent film Valkyrie. The film was produced to present the story of the Prussian aristocracy who plotted against Hitler to an American audience. German audiences felt that the story did not accurately evoke their culture, but it was perfect for Americans. What evokes a feeling in one audience might not do so in another.

Well, a fellow sure is lucky to have a forum where he can write something as abstract as this blog post and have people understand, and respond with such wisdom and insight. Thanks, guys.

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