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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

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instinct

So, I’m learning French on my own…..

……..thanks to this little app on my phone called Duolingo. I started out with Spanish, then added French and then, in honor of my trip to Ireland, Gaelic.

Let me say, right now, that my Gaelic sucks. I can’t even figure it out in context. That’s okay – I’d never heard it before, so…..I’ll cut myself some slack on that one. I didn’t delete it – it’s still there, waiting for me to come back to it.

And I will.

I fared a lot better with Spanish, mainly because I live in California and am surrounded by the Spanish history and influence. I have a couple of Agatha Christie and Stephen King titles in Spanish, which will be helpful in bettering my comprehension of the language. Years ago, I suspected that if reading helps us with comprehending our native tongue, then surely it would have the same effect when learning a foreign one.

If I already knew the story, I thought, then my main struggle would be in understanding it in a language I’m not fluent in.

I stumbled across that idea when I was taking Spanish in college, lo, these many years ago. I read the Spanish translation of Pablo Neruda’s poetry to my tutor. In a few weeks time, she commented that my pronunciation and comprehension improving. And I was pleased.

So, imagine my surprise when, upon beginning my French lessons on the app, that it came to me far more easily than Spanish did. I’ve progressed further in the French than I have in the Spanish – indeed, I don’t think I’ve gone back to Spanish or Gaelic in over a year.

I’m not worried about that, because my goal is to learn more than one language and some far more complicated than French or Spanish (1). The better I get at French, the easier it will be to switch over to Spanish. Like Italian, French and Spanish derive from the Latin, which explains why they are similar in structure. Even particular words resemble each other.

I’m not exactly sure why I’m feeling determined to learn French right at this moment, but I’m willing to follow my instincts and see where it leads.

Sometimes, that’s what you need to do.

 

(1) Complicated in that I would also be learning an alphabet made up of letters that I won’t recognize, like Japanese.

Clockwise from bottom: Eso (IT); Ventana Secreta, Jardin Secreto (Secret Window, Secret Garden); Orguillo Y Prejuicio (Pride & Prejudice); Matar es Facil (Murder is Easy); Telon (Curtain); Une Poignee de Seigle (A Pocketful of Rye); Le Retour D'Hercule Poirot (The Return of Hercule Poirot).
Clockwise from bottom (Spanish to French):    Eso (IT); Ventana Secreta, Jardin Secreto (Secret Window, Secret Garden); Orguillo Y Prejuicio (Pride & Prejudice); Matar es Facil (Murder is Easy); Telon (Curtain); Une Poignee de Seigle (A Pocketful of Rye); Le Retour D’Hercule Poirot (The Return of Hercule Poirot).
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So, every time I write a book……

……..I go through the same process – I have an amazingly brilliant vision of the whole story (as seen from a distance); I start to put it down on paper and it dissolves like cotton candy on the tongue; I freak out and feel insecure about the tripe I’m writing; I console myself with multiple cups of coffee and tell myself not to worry about it; by the time I get 65 to 75 thousand words in, I wonder where the hell I’m going to pull another 20 to 30 thousand from; by the time I’m at 80 to 90 thousand words, I’m metaphorically pulling my hair out by the roots, feeling like Elsa Lanchester from The Bride of Frankenstein (1935); when I finally crack and/or surpass the 90,000 words mark, I feel like I went through a triatholon – three times.

I tend to do the same thing when I’m developing my character in whatever play I happen to be performing in at the time. Or the painting and sketch classes I’m taking. And it’s a process that I will endure when I finally focus on learning how to play the violin. I’m also currently at the Elsa Lanchester stage of my current novel in progress. It’s not pretty. If you have a creative person in your life, chocolate is a good choice in keeping the peace. Or hot cocoa.
What this means for me is that I’m wrestling past the obvious and mundane and aiming for the truth of the character, the story or the subject. So if you find yourself feeling frustrated with an art piece or a story or music, try not sweat it too much. What’s happening is that the goal you have in mind has a path far different than the one you had planned. That creative instinct we all have inside us is also the instinct that will push us further than we think possible. Trusting it is trusting yourself.

Creating, my friends, is not easy, nor is it for the faint of heart. But it’s a heck of a ride and a ton of fun to do. I can’t not write – for me, it’s another way of breathing. As Anais Nin once said, “Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.”

Recommended Reading:
Zen in the Art of Writing – Ray Bradbury
Henry Miller on Writing – Henry Miller
Living and Sustaining a Creative Life – Sharon Louden

 

Editor’s Note – this blog post is con-currently published on Citizens Journal Ventura County.

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