The Power of Words

The rising popularity of Collins’ The Hunger Games (fueled by the recent premier of the trailer, no doubt) sparked my curiosity and started me reading again. With that in conjunction with the last two books of the Ender quartet unread, my final couple of weeks before winter break saw little chance to sleep at a healthful bedtime, and it was the submission deadlines of a conference and of a one-year-late final project (which, according to university policy, if left unattended, would have resulted in No Pass) that obliged me to focus on my work at a time when I longed for the coming of break.

Nevertheless, I completed the quarter and received a satisfactory mark for that course (E342, MEMS Fabrication for the curious), much to my relief, and the threat of an injured pride more than anything—fortunately, I had just enough courses for Terminal Graduate Registration without this class—dissipated, which had been looming over my head for the past year. I thus spent my break well-entertained in the company of Collins, Card, and Austen. (Yes, the last week before I returned, I had my nose buried in Pride and Prejudice, determined to remove my name from any list of the Uncultured.)

But in all seriousness, there is something about writing that has always attracted me, though I was not very aware of this affinity until now. Looking back, I see evidence of my predilection for verbal expression in the stories that I had written (that I have long since forgotten), the journal that I had kept for a decade, and even before having access to a computer, the participation in bookmaking activities early in grade school.

I have distilled my attraction to literature into three reasons:

  • The language used by the author can itself be beautiful and enjoyed, not unlike beholding a beautiful painting; writing, after all, is as much an art as brushwork. From what little experience I have, P&P showcases Austen’s command of language, coherence of thought, and competence of wit. It was a pleasure to read, and not seldom did I marvel at its quotability.
  • Reading allows me to share in another’s fantasy and provides an outlet for my own imagination that is often hampered by lack of practice and discouraged by circumstance. For instance, the universe that Orson Scott Card constructed in the Ender’s Game and its sequels is quite fascinating even if requiring a suspension of disbelief in its physics. It challenges the mind to think, “What if?” of philotes and ansibles.
  • Reading allows me to share in another’s dream and experience, providing new perspectives to be explored and lessons to be gleaned, but the most profound effect of literature (including movies) is that they ignite the ambition within me to cultivate particular traits in characters like Mr. Darcy, Ender, and Peter; to seek particular traits in the likes of Elizabeth, Jane, Valentine, and Wang-Mu; and to aspire to be a mover of hearts and shaper of this world.

In short, reading inspires me to dream and to work toward my dreams.

The corollary, of course, is that writing can be an effective tool to inspire others to dream and to work. For when I beheld the power of words, even within Card’s stories (The Hive Queen, The Hegemon, and The Life of Human as primary examples, and the essays of Demosthenes as secondary ones), I realized that one way to leave a meaningful legacy was through writing, but to do that would require a deliberate effort in improving my style and technique.

Thus, having my desire to write rekindled, I purchased a few books to help me in my journey toward that purpose—Portable MFA in Creative Writing by New York Writers Workshop, Style: Basics in Clarity and Grace by Williams, and Writing Tools by Clark.

Parallel to reading about writing, I do resolve to post more, if for no other reason than to exercise the things that I learn.