On writing and the instability of words (briefly)

“One time, I was driving from some party and a friend of mine’s girlfriend (or maybe just some girl he was fucking) who I had just met maybe two hours before, remarked on the skepticism that seemed to soak my way of speaking. In real-life, I’m often prefacing a thought with “my thing is,” or “I’m the kind of person who…” and this is done, I think, because of my basic distrust of language. Sorry if this is veering into linguistics territory, but my understanding of words is that they are always unstable and that they’re almost always employed for in-the-moment effect or out of a pragmatic need to say something at that exact moment, than any powerful stable meaning they supposedly possess. This is a confusing for a writer. How do you write if you think writing and communication are fundamentally hopeless and bullshit?”

-music journalistBrandon Soderberg

The above is extracted from Soderberg’s answer to an anonymously posted question on his tumblr: “What do you think is your greatest weakness as a writer?”

Not going to dive too deeply into any of this passage, but it is one of my favorite things I’ve read recently in regard to writing and serves as a nice companion piece to a book I’ve been rifling through, John McWhorter’s Our Magificent Bastard Tongue, which presents a counter-narrative to the accepted understanding of how modern English came to be. The book is a bit repetitive and not always heavy on displaying causality (a tall task in this case, to be sure), but it does wonderfully highlight the instability of language that Soderberg discusses. Something to chew on.

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