Modes Essay—Definition

May 2, 2008
Modes Essay—Definition
Topic: The Art of Writing

According to Sidonie Gabrielle, I am an author.

There’s always plenty of paper in my room. Spiral notebooks overflow from the drawers of my bedside table; my backpack is littered with various vignettes and folded half sheets of binder paper that bear the fruits of my wandering mind. When I sort through my backpack every once in a while, I find them, and dissect the words written in my half-cursive scrawl. I type them up and sort them in folders on my computer. Some are continued, developed into short stories. Others remain the way they are: the random musings of a teenage girl who is addicted to visions of scripted ink and paper the same way the stereotypical novelist is addicted to coffee shops.

And I do some of my best writing while nursing a vanilla latte at the back table of Pete’s.

A girl sits cross-legged in the small wooden chair. It threatens to topple, but she has relatively good balance, and is perfectly aligned with her center of gravity. She rocks forward on her folded ankles, and leans over the small circular table, deep in concentration. Chewing thoughtfully on the end of her pencil, she only looks up when she hears a distinctive voice, or sees the inspiring pair of shoes in her line of sight. She pauses when she hears a boy’s voice, 21 she judges, without looking up. He sounds very much like he could be the lead singer of a band, with a voice so clear and confident. She listens carefully, her mind reeling with possibilities. A moment later her pen touches the paper and she writes, “He sounded familiar; a voice of spun gold, soft and liquid against the nondescript hum of vocal chords filling the confined space.” And the story takes shape, its form morphing and glittering in her mind.

At times I find that my thoughts make up the narration to a story that’s never been written. On my morning walks to school I pass by a house on my street; it is in my mind, the most beautiful house I have ever seen. When I think of that house, when I see it in the emerging sunlight, description carelessly slips through my mind, “the path leading up to the front door is dark stone and shallow steps, overshadowed by the draping coats of maple leaves. A tree sits on each side of the path in perfect symmetry. Mirror images of each other, their branches arch up over the pathway to meet and intertwine, arms interlocked and hands entwined.”

And in the autumn, the description changes with the season; “In the fall the leaves turn to gold; Midas’ hand reaching down from the sky to set them alight. They burn brighter than any I’ve ever seen, the twin images of their forms seared into my memory.” If I’m lucky I have an old receipt in my pocket, or a folded napkin. Pens are always accessible, and I can write it all down before it disappears, lodging itself somewhere in the back of my mind, floating in an obscure pool of all other unwritten thoughts.

And when I find myself developing a single line—inspired from a single word—into a vignette characteristic of my verbose depictions, it’s all I can do not to delete the entire thing in one sweeping click and drag of my mouse. Along with the innate desire to sculpt sentences out of the deep abyss of my mind, comes the instinctive reaction to slay those same creations. Only on rare occasion do I write a story in one fell swoop, without the constant and compulsive desire to revise and rewrite, revise and rewrite. I’m often only left with a lonely sentence or two in a paragraph of my thoughts, a page or two where there once were four. There is no bitterness associated with this nearly vehement devastation of a work of prose, but rather a calming wave of relief. To destroy it utterly and completely in frustration, I relish in the newness of the blank page, the futility of my efforts, and the oddly soothing sight of a new word typed in times new roman, size 11 font.

"Sit down and put down everything in your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it."
-Sidonie Gabrielle

It is indeed possible that I just might be an author.

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