When I Take Up the Pen – A Response

Following the beauty, mystery and honesty of Julie’s post, “When I Take Up the Pen”, I have written a response to develop my perspective – which you may find a little different.

There is a difference between my thoughts and my writing – my thoughts are myriad of senses and sensations, flickering emotions and dancing nuances. Sometimes I communicate by mere gesture, unable to tease out the noun I am searching for. Sometimes I will make up a word. But whilst Julie found “[t]hese whole body experiences … almost impossible to put to paper”, I find the very opposite – I need the put them onto paper – or at the very least I need to talk them over to myself as if I had already written them and were now reading them out loud.

To me, writing something down means extracting the core of them: some sensations are lost, but the meaning, hitherto clouded by a mist of smoke screens, becomes sharp and vivid. Writing is where my thoughts fall into place, the stronghold not for communicating with others, but with myself. This does mean that, for others, I may not create that magical, touching beauty that some literature inspires – or not very often, anyway. But it isn’t for them. Writing down my thoughts creates in me a sense of self, a sense of presence in time and space that the untempered sensations deny and confuddle.

I do want to write for others – I want to be one of those who “can do it all: write beautiful words, make wonderful sounds and create engaging images”, but that comes with practice and passion (and isn’t relative). As a child, I loved reading, but more than anything I wanted to write. I hated music. I used to scream when my mother played music (sorry…).

Music gave me sensations I couldn’t write into place. And writing gave me more tools than spoken words – punctuation: the written equivalent of verbal cues like pauses and changes in pitch, but more concrete, there to check back upon, there to digest at your own pace. And my pace was often faster than speech, and too impatient to wait for it.

Punctuation gives me my sense of order – take away the punctuation and I am lost in a wilderness. First I’m confused, then fearful, and finally I resent and fight against those who abandoned me here. It’s not just “bad writing” if you don’t punctuate, it’s a jungle.

I’m not afraid to take up the pen… I’m afraid that one time someone might take the pen away.

Fred Humphreys

Scientist at University of Portsmouth
I'm a research scientist based in Portsmouth in the United Kingdom. My passions include biology, gardening and walking.

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