Quick: In a complete sentence, define is without using the word is.
Not easy. When defining a verb, my instinct is to use the word “is”. I flounder more than an actual flounder and end up drowning in a weak mumbly-gook of words that don’t mean anything. My best attempt is this:
Is defines itself as the present moment state of being of a singular subject.
Huh? I’ve baffled even myself and I supposedly know of what I speak.
A lot of times, there are days when I start up the computer and want to write, have the opportunity to write, and know vaguely what I want to write. I might even have a few phrases floating in the maelstrom of my mind. But the chaos never settles. I keep writing the scene, making my word count, writing pretty phrases, but I’m not saying anything. The book isn’t progressing. I’m putting words on paper, yes, but I’m trying to make length, not story.
Back in college, we called this “bulling”. As in, “I bulled my way through that paper.” Usually this involved manipulating font sizes and margins, adding qualifiers and speaking in that academic language that muddles even the clearest of words.
Come to think of it, politicians are brilliant at this. Late night comedians find glorious riches to mine, thanks to politicians’ eloquent way of saying nothing in as many words as possible.
I’ve read books that feel this way, too. Recently, I read a literary novel that left me wondering, “what the heck was that about?” Granted, one of the main characters was a trouble-shooter for a government agency, and his testimony (and later, memoirs) reflected the need to cover up the truth of an international politically sensitive matter. In short, the scandal of an American woman caught up in an international drug trafficking ring. Bang, bang, the woman’s assassinated and everything is managed just fine, thank you.
Even if the woman’s motives aren’t clear.
Even if the target of the bullet wasn’t her.
Even if the intended target doesn’t know himself that his death was supposed to set off a string of violent events, culminating in the assassination of a Third World dictator. (Or dictator wannabe. I wasn’t certain.)
It was the government trouble-shooter’s doublespeak that troubled me. (It also alienated me from the characters other than the narrator. But it’s a literary novel, so I guess literary readers are supposed to be okay with alienation. The harder it is to read, the more profound the content must be, right?)
Why can’t you just say it? I wanted to yell. Just admit the truth! It wouldn’t have done any good. Fictional characters don’t respond to criticism from their readers.
Just say it. Kill the academic muddling. Stop the political double-speak and spin-doctoring. Quit justifying while apologizing. End the meaningless babble to fill air time and attract attention and increase web traffic.
Just say what you need to say. Then zip it. God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason, you know.
For once, I’ll take my own advice.
Have a great weekend, y’all.