Polish till it shines

I have been perpetually gravitating towards language. It is a beautiful art of forming sentences. A means to create magic by ordaining words into meaning. Language has powers to teleport us to a utopia, take us in the past, render a new reality, and transfer ideas and memories inside our head.

Words are beautifully canned collections of the obscurest and the mundane–everything–feeling, emotions, thing, places, people, everything. You could spend an entire lifetime finding a mot juste, the exact and appropriate word, to describe something you felt in a moment. It’s a profound achievement every time I find a word that can say what I really want to say. Yet, they are not my favourite expression of language.

A good book is a curated and laboured buffet of thoughts, facts, philosophy, history, perspective, and wisdom. A savouring of the right book can satiate deep fits of intellectual hunger, can fix a bewitched life compass, or can alter our timelines. Still, their enchantments are not the most potent of all.

Dig deep into the books you love and you will discover that it was a few golden sentences that made you skip that beat. Those perfectly canned words become real in a sentence that reveals their meanings. Sentences are my allure.

***

Have you seen the movie up in the air? Ryan, played by George Clooney, lives out of his suitcase traveling around the country firing people. This is the opening act from the movie and Ryan is giving ‘What’s In Your Backpack’ speech. I took it from the screenplay directly, essentially unedited. Wonderful writing deserves retelling. It goes like this,

Ryan asks us (through the audience), “How much does your life weigh?”

He pauses to let us consider this.

“Imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack… I want you to feel the straps on your shoulders… You feel them?

Now, I want you to pack it with all the stuff you have in your life. Start with the little things. The stuff in drawers and on shelves. The collectables and knick-knacks. Feel the weight as it adds up. Now, start adding the larger stuff. Your clothes, tabletop appliances, lamps, linens, your TV. That backpack should be getting pretty heavy at this point – Go Bigger. Your couch, your bed, your kitchen table. Stuff it all in… Your car, get it in there… Your home. I want you to stuff it into that backpack.”

Ryan takes a beat to let the weight sink in.

He continues, “Now try to walk.”

We hear people around us chuckling. Ryan smiles.

***

Now, imagine you are writing a book. Would you pack in every thought, every fact, every imagination and all the dialogues from your life? Or you will cull the ones that really deserve a space on the spine of your story?

“The purpose of a good education is to show that there are three sides to a two-sided story.” – Stanely Fish