When I was in 7th grade my teacher (who was kind of an ass hole… but that’s beside the point) said that men just have less words inside them than women. And by the end of the school day he would sometimes say he was out of words and stop chatting with us, or start giving one word answers. He was probably just a tired teacher, fed up with 7th graders. But what he said has totally stuck with me – actually a lot of what he said has stuck with me, this is only a tiny portion.

Less words, and sometimes you can run out. Run out of words. Imagine that? I used to wonder what that felt like. Used to. As in, now I do.

I’ve been writing a lot. A lot a lot a lot. Surrounded with words, reaching for words, spewing and thinking and breathing and chewing on words. And now I find it impossible to return emails, to commit too much time on things I don’t HAVE to do, or to schedule myself for one more activity, or concentrate on something I don’t have any room for (Kamel telling me about why certain graphics look a certain way in some video game – sorry honey, no room at the Inn). I can’t do it. It’s made me a terrible long distance friend. I keep thinking it’s going to work itself out, it’s going to slow down next week, the week after. But so far no. Things pop up, I’m still scrambling, words start flying out of my body faster than I can regenerate them. I’m working on my word-stamina.

And in a real sense, I’m out of them. Even as I’m typing this I find myself skipping words. I read over a sentence and I realize I just haven’t written a “to” or an ending “ing”. It feels like I have, I don’t remember not writing those things, I’m actually surprised that I didn’t. Why wouldn’t I write an “ing”? That makes zero sense. And now I know what it feels like to be in word debt. The repo-man just walks right through my sentences and takes words back that I haven’t paid for. That’s what it feels like. I swear I write the words that I’m thinking in my mind, and someone sweeps up behind me and steals them from the page. It’s exhausting, let me tell ya.

I need to figure out how to be more effective at replenishing. At this point I’m grasping at straws. There’s a drought over here. (Also… how many more metaphors can I use? Sigh. Classic coping mechanism for wordless writers.)

20 thoughts on “Words”

  1. Um, YES! SO MUCH YES!

    I write for work (not the type of writing I WANT to be doing, mind you…but writing, nonetheless). And most days, at the end of the day, I am out. of. words. No more. I literally have trouble *speaking* words. Someone will ask me a question, I’ll start to respond, some kind of jibberish will come out, I’ll have to stop, think, restart. And I explain to them, I’m sorry, I’ve used up all my words for the day. And it probably sounds ridiculous, but that’s just how it feels–I’m not tired, per se. I’ve just run over my word quota for the day.

    But whatya gonna do? Just keep plugging along, I guess. Keep checking for those “tos” and “ings”. I think it’s good, too, to sometimes disconnect ourselves from the words–take a couple day breather from writing. Which, yeah, easier said than done, right? But it’s good to schedule that time in, to rejuvenate.

  2. I feel the same way about politics. We’ve spent 10-12 hours the last two Saturdays at Occupy Seattle. My brain is totally fried. Add the newspaper reading and constant news analysis and I have trouble forming sentences.

  3. So true. I’ve been writing quite a bit lately as well (mostly sketch comedy) and started to notice that my word emails were dropping “to” and “the” like crazy. I was fairly certain I had a malignant brain tumor, so thanks for letting me know I’m not the only one!

    I think people have a word quota every day – there’s only so many you can process or manipulate. Nothing makes me angrier then my day job stealing all the words I need for my creative writing. I try to limit meetings and memos for this reason 🙂

  4. Hey Lauren, I know what you mean. Lately I come back from work (where I have to read all day long, and as fast as possible at that), so exhausted that the boy says something to me and I have to ask him to repeat it maybe 3 times before I finally get it. It is not the same, because I am not actually writing stuff (other than emails) but I know what you’re getting that. Your talk about words also reminded me of Chapter 93 of Hopscotch (Rayuela, from Julio Cortazar). Have you read that book? It is one of my all time favorites, if you can read in spanish I strongly recommend you do, otherwise it has been translated to english.I am pasting below the part that this post reminded me of (he is talking about his own war with words, calling them “perras negras”, black bitches, and how words sometimes seem animated, like ants, flooding the place). I am putting here the text in spanish , but I have the book in english… and actually if you are interested I could send it to you (I am a strong believer in the circulation of books, in them being passed on, as opposed to just resting and gathering dust in a bookshelf). So here goes:

    “¿Por qué stop? Por miedo de empezar las fabricaciones, son tan fáciles. Sacás una idea de ahí, un sentimiento del otro estante, los atás con ayuda de palabras, perras negras, y resulta que te quiero. Total parcial: te quiero. Total general: te amo. Así viven muchos amigos míos, sin hablar de un tío y dos primos, convencidos del amor-que-sienten-por-sus-esposas. De la palabra a los actos, che; en general sin verba no hay res. Lo que mucha gente llama amar consiste en elegir a una mujer y casarse con ella. La eligen, te lo juro, los he visto. Como si se pudiese elegir en el amor, como si no fuera un rayo que te parte los huesos y te deja estaqueado en la mitad del patio. Vos dirás que la eligen porque-la-aman, yo creo que es al verse. A Beatriz no se la elige, a Julieta no se la elige. Vos no elegís la lluvia que te va a calar hasta los huesos cuando salís de un concierto. Pero estoy solo en mi pieza, caigo en artilugios de escriba, las perras negras se vengan cómo pueden, me mordisquean desde abajo de la mesa. ¿Se dice abajo o debajo? Lo mismo te muerden. ¿Por qué, por qué, pourquoi, why, warum, perchè este horror a las perras negras? Miralas ahí en ese poema de Nashe, convertidas en abejas. Y ahí, en dos versos de Octavio Paz, muslos del sol, recintos del verano. Pero un mismo cuerpo de mujer es María y la Brinvilliers, los ojos que se nublan
    mirando un bello ocaso son la misma óptica que se regala con los retorcimientos de un ahorcado. Tengo miedo de ese proxenetismo, de tinta y de voces, mar de lenguas lamiendo el culo del mundo. Miel y leche hay debajo de tu lengua… Sí, pero también está dicho que las moscas muertas hacen heder el perfume del perfumista. En guerra con la palabra, en guerra, todo lo que sea necesario aunque haya que renunciar a la inteligencia, quedarse en el mero pedido de
    papas fritas y los telegramas Reuter, en las cartas de mi noble hermano y los diálogos del cine. Curioso, muy curioso que Puttenham sintiera las palabras como si fueran objetos, y hasta criaturas con vida propia. También a mí, a veces, me parece estar engendrando ríos de hormigas feroces que se comerán el mundo. Ah, si en el silencio empollara el Roc… Logos, faute éclatante. Concebir una raza que se expresara por el dibujo, la danza, el macramé o una mímica abstracta. ¿Evitarían las connotaciones, raíz del engaño? Honneur des hommes, etc. Sí, pero
    un honor que se deshonra a cada frase, como un burdel de vírgenes si la cosa fuera posible.”

    And here is the whole book in pdf, in spanish:


  5. I’m this close to offering you a trade. The other day I finally articulated a yearning that’s been growing for a while, that I just want to run away and hide in a cabin in the woods and MAKE things for a month. I have words welling up that want out, and no time to sit with them. I would love to be able to look back at the last few weeks and say, “I’ve exhausted my creative resources,” and have something to show for it.
    So, good for you for using your words so well! As for replenishing, the best thing I’ve found that works is silence. Hard to come by, these days 🙂 Good luck!

      1. Indeed 🙂 My philosophy toward working out is that I’m allowed to skip days and weeks and not feel guilty about it, because I’ll probably go back to it sooner than later. Just having the permission makes me that much more likely to muster the reserves to make it through one more day. I think it applies to writing too, giving myself permission to not write. Somehow releases the blocks (sometimes).

  6. Whoa, yeah, I know what you mean, especially about the effects this has on my long-distance friendships and ability to concentrate on conversations that aren’t strictly necessary. Sorry, I just don’t have it in me for that 2-hour phone call that only happens once every month or so.

    I’m not sure if this relates, but I thought I’d throw it out there. I used to do a daily writing exercise called morning pages: first thing after waking up, maybe even before getting out of bed, grab the notebook from the bedside table and write 5 pages stream-of-consciousness. Don’t edit, don’t try to direct it, don’t re-read, don’t make any kind of value judgment on what comes out (this is important – it’s not so much a “writing” exercise as it is taking out the trash). It would seem like that my be an unnecessary withdrawal from the already strapped word-bank, but I actually found it to help.

    It basically cleared out all the garbage that was floating around in my brain, and then the rest of the day I didn’t have to fight through all that crap to make thoughts and words happen. Like cleaning out the fridge to make room for the new groceries, or making a Goodwill run to free up room in your closet. I should probably get back in the habit.

    1. Oooo, this sounds like a really good way to start a day. I think I’m going to try it… As long as I can wake up early enough for five pages of writing!

      1. It really doesn’t take that long! Maybe 15 minutes tops, because it really is stream-of consciousness, and sloppy hand-writing and not spell-checking. I know some people do a set time period rather than a set number of pages – whatever works for you.

        1. I’ve done them as well, and they’re amazing! It seems to clear out the top layer of anxiety and list-making that can muddle your brain, and free you up to start your day in a better place.

  7. Ack! I know this feeling. I write technical reports at work concerning intelligence and behavior and blah blah of the kids I work with and I’m so exhausted at night. I find that wordless projects help me recover. Get out the paint, the hot glue gun, the camera and use other mediums to capture feelings, events, and a general creative spirit.

    If all else fails, a glass of wine usually helps me be very free with my words.

  8. “The repo-man just walks right through my sentences and takes words back that I haven’t paid for.”

    Great. Now my writer’s block will be made of pure fear of the repo-man of words.

  9. I feel like this post is speaking directly to me. Or maybe I wrote it and totally forgot. I’ve been having the same issues with words for awhile. Lately, I’ve been writing and reading non-stop and I agree with the commenter who said she thought she may have a brain tumor. I know the word, I see the word, I cannot say the word. I hope this is just a combination of craziness & stress… neither of which may disappear. We shall see. I am thinking of buying some watercolors or pastels this weekend. Maybe it will help. A coloring book even.

    Love your blog!

  10. It’s kinda freaking me out that you wrote this post today, since I’m feeling very much like this right now. Day after day of 12-16 hour days, doing nothing but working and sleeping. And I just feel so exhausted. Like my survival relies solely on my ability to filter out anything that isn’t related to work or keeping the family going. It’s a lot.

  11. Ok, so, this almost certainly came to mind because I’m a nanny and I listen to kids’ music all the time… but I feel this song is for you today. And also, I love it. Enjoy:

  12. Yes. Yes. Yes.

    I am (almost) a psychologist and I’m in my residency year, which means I see a ton of patients. By the end of the day, I’m out of spoken words. I’m just out. I may not even say that much in the sessions, but when I get home, I’m reduced to simple answers.

    Mike: What do you want for dinner?
    Me: Food.
    Mike: What kind.
    Me: Good kind.

    The end.

    Haha. Not all days are like that, but a lot of them are. I just can’t be bothered to form sentences on those days!

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