Every sentence is a challenge and a struggle. A sentence wants what a sentence wants.
The Interminable Sentence
My life at times has been the focus of incessant criticisms for the strangest of reasons. At times I have some understanding of which they speak, while at others I am left bewildered and completely ignorant of the reasons and intent of my oppressors. My foray into the sheltered and isolated existence of the writer has done nothing to alleviate this. It is a relentless barrage of opinion and invective, even well-meaning or benign at times, but a perpetual parade of comments and observations on something, anything, that I attempt as I traverse my path from here into tomorrow. The confusion and frustration has become so commonplace that I feel somewhat lost and incomplete when it takes a hiatus, and allows me to simply 'be'.
So it is with something so mundane as the length of many of my sentences, especially since the focus of my writing has involved others for feedback and support. The genesis of writing, of course, is the process of thought that we all possess, and some of us use this to define and develop whatever talents we have for laying down words upon the page. The issue is that when we think, or at least in my case, I find that there is no real beginning to my trains of thought, nor an ending. It is a continual flow of information and deliberations and formation of elusive ideas. What many call the 'stream of consciousness, and rightly so, since the words pour onto the page, often as quickly as I can form them, and often they far outpace my ability to do so. More words than time and space allow. They pour onto the page, devoid of considerations as to grammar and punctuation, and at times without the need for sense or significance as well. Such was my life.
The critiques began as soon as the work was available for public view.
"Your sentences are much too long".
"You have to do something about the size of your paragraphs!".
Ironically, these issues were intimately related.
"That's not a paragraph, I replied, but only a single sentence!".
I realized, somewhat reluctantly, that there was some truth in their words. In time I came to, if not particularly agree, to accept the fact that some adjustments were required. I worked on creating multiple shorter sentences from a single string, although I still thought they were perfectly appropriate at times. I even came to recognize the value in an appreciably shorter, staccato sentences at times. When attempted, I was greeted by the admonition;
"your sentences are too short, they need to be combined into complex sentences".
"But I just shortened them".
"If you really wanted to see complex sentences, you should have seen them before!".
So much for paying attention to the peanut gallery. More irony presents itself as others remark how interesting and creative it was to infuse or sprinkle both into the narrative. Go figure. I have found a somewhat happy medium. It was probably all for the best. I guess that is what we call the growth process. Listen, adjust. Experiment and listen some more. Adjust once again. Resist when it seems appropriate. Acquiesce when it seems inevitable. Wait for the fullness to become apparent with time. Incorporate into your voice and style, or scrap it all and start over from scratch. It is a joy to be a writer.
But the irony never ends, nor the critiques. Over time it has become apparent that there are 'others; such as myself that have had to deal with similar circumstances. Well, maybe I shouldn't say they even dealt with it since they never adjusted. By choice or through ignorance, I have no way of knowing. A few months ago I became engaged with the writing of David Foster Wallace, and his considerations for the conventional observers seemed to be almost non-existent. I would be fascinated to know what his readers and editors had to say about the fact that he often wrote sentences with over a hundred words consistently, and they were difficult at times to follow. Maybe those criticisms actually had some basis in fact. His writing in general, while competent, was also chaotic, and yet he was able to pen a small library, and achieved some notoriety for his work. So it doesn't necessarily matter, in the right environment.
Just a few days ago, I was doing some light research, commenting on Nietzsches' "Genealogy of Morals" when I realized that quite a few instances of hundred-word sentences were sprinkled in his work. How interesting. Was it not important back then, or was it the case that it didn't really matter since it was so difficult to comprehend his work in any case? There are many other cases throughout literature and poetry where the author took liberties with rules and formats. Is this such a bad thing? Does it really impact the industry in any real way? Is it not for the author to touch us on levels of their own choosing, and our own ability to interpret and understand? How can I help but agree with their behaviour? When the words resonate within my very soul, the sensibilities of the discipline of writing are forgotten. It is not about the editor and the proofreader. That is about business. It is about the author and the reader. For me, that is art.
I continue to break the rules about grammar, and punctuation, and commas, and ellipses. I make a feeble attempt to color 'between' the lines, but my heart is not in it. My focus is on the prize. I want my reader to feel, and to think. To perceive and absorb something that they have not experienced, and to think of the unimaginable. Perhaps to contemplate the what is, but undeniably to help them dream of what could be. That is the desire of at least this writer. I have been able to do so on occasion, but with much less consistency than I would like. My bad. I need to do better. Perhaps I'll try typing backward. Maybe not.
Don't be restricted by someone else's vision, or lack thereof. Become the writer you wish to be. Be the writer that you are meant to be. Make your own decisions and follow your own path. Nothing is etched in stone, especially my own words. But then again ....