Monday, December 12, 2011

Fireflies and Lightening-bolts

"The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightening and a lightening-bug" ~Mark Twain
Ditto. It is not unusual for Mark Twain to hit the nail smack on the head--he was rather a hammersmith in that respect--but this time he had the lightening he spoke of in that quote. We have all felt that sensation of something being just the tiniest bit amiss in our writing. The untrained eye would not, perhaps, detect it, but we read over our writing feeling that somehow, somewhere, we've missed the mark and all we have is a tiny fire-fly cupped in the hollow of our hand where we once sought to have hold of a lightening-bolt.
It doesn't mean the fire-fly can't grow up to become a lightening-bolt, but it means that our words need a bit of surgery. And oh, is it worth it! I can't laud enough the sensation of rightness that comes when you realize you'd truly hit upon something. It's you've come home after a long voyage, or you've seen a commonplace item transformed by moonlight, or you've seen ember-roses in the coals of a camp-fire because you stayed just long enough to forget it was a fire and not some living, breathing, beautiful painting come alive. It's something elusive but oh, you know you've got it when it comes.
My descriptions used  to be commonplace enough. I hadn't learned (and I daresay have yet to learn much of) the fact that a writer must look at the world through her heart, not her head to capture things just so. Why say the sunset was beautiful when you could make your reader feel the last lingering rays of airy-wine poured into her lap if you only molded your words just so? But don't despair too much if lightening just isn't striking you. It will eventually, and for now, Nearly There will suit.
After all, there is a certain charm to be found in fire-flies.

"Sunlight glistened on the river that reflected her smiles, white-on-white with a gleam like that of snow-on-the-mountain in full bloom. Great cloud-birds chased each-other rumble-tumble over the face of the sun, throwing the valleys into shadow one moment and blinding illumination the next. There was a smell in the air of Summer. Not high Summer, with his scornful eye and chastening whip of drought and flame, not late Summer with her matronly smiles and benevolent arms filled with a good harvest, but early Summer—maiden-fair  and scented with green and blossoming things; the bride of the year who had not yet realized she was grown up."

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