The Single, Solitary Utterance


Do we choose words or do words choose us? Each solitary utterance coming together like the individual cells of a slime mould – existing in their own right, yet merging and forming into all manner of shapes –  urged on by the need to form sentences that speak of us and to us, of the world and our relationship to it.

The words that we choose, or that choose us, can liberate or imprison; words have the power to shape our lives for good or ill: the verbs dictate what we do; the adjectives give colour, tone and texture to our actions and thoughts. By the time each of us reaches adulthood, it is hard to comprehend the nature of living outside of language; the narratives we construct about ourselves and the events we encounter establish meaning through the complex and intricate weaving together of one word to the next. And it’s not just our own words but those of others that can have extraordinary impact, even change the course of our lives, our lexicons radically altered by a book, a speech or conversation.

In my early twenties, during a time of poverty and unemployment, I discovered the liberating power of books.  There was a charity shop a short walk from my home. In the front section of the shop were clothes and bric-a-brac but walking out through a door towards the back of the building, the curious could discover a large room filled with numerous bookcases crammed and enticing. The books were mainly old editions of Everyman publications, with subjects ranging from Greek Philosophy to poetry and classic novels; the muted colours of their hardbacks opened to reveal beautifully illustrated inside covers. There were many Penguin books too, the early orange and white distinctive and easily recognisable designs of novels; purple and white for non-fiction essays. It was a place of pure delight. The books were never more than a few pennies, so with my limited funds I was able to enter a world of ideas and words that, despite the narrow restrictions of my external world, helped my inner life to grow and flourish.

If my life had felt stultifying and dead-ended, then books and the words that inhabited their pages, loosened the binds and instilled in me the distinct sense that there was something more out there,  expansive and limitless. I have no doubt that the compulsive and obsessive reading of that period of my life led me to eventually go back to study for a degree as a mature student. Reading alone in my desperate little flat was a training ground for things to come. Reading transformed my life; it taught me to write and ultimately enabled me to experience and achieve things that I had once thought impossible. It has been strange that something so vital to my sense of myself – reading and writing – have been so hard to do of late.

My life has gone through some extraordinary changes over these last eighteen months: I have left my 27 year marriage, started a new relationship, and moved home three times (the last of these to a different country, leaving behind all and everyone that I have known!). Writing these as a list of events could not even begin to hint at the emotional impact of such major changes, let along the odd and heady mixture of carnage and joy that potentially surrounds any one of these singular happenings. Grouped together, it has been quite a ride! Ordinarily, writing would have been the means by which I muddled through and made sense and yet it seems that even this has been too much for my psyche. The words just haven’t found me…

And so, I am left to ponder the link between inspiration and hard graft. It is tempting to think that any creative effort is based solely in that blissful flow and rush of inspiration. However, most creative folks – be they musicians, writers, artists – will confess that it is far less glamorous a process.  Rolling up one’s sleeves and getting on with it, no matter what, is actually the method that produces results. Inspiration is undoubtedly an important factor but without the action – the doing of the thing – nothing materialises. This has been a lesson well-learned of late. The lacking of that spark has left me dry. And the ‘doing’ has felt almost impossible.

Something within suspects that the enormity of the change that has swept through my life has left me stunned.  It has been such a paradigm shift that much of me has yet to catch up. I have gradually started reading again and am forcing my fingers to tap at the keys in the hope that the ignition catches at some point.

Part of me also suspects that sometimes we have to go beyond language, forgoing the attempt to rationalise or arrange into neat narratives, in order that we might engage with raw feeling; emotions that cannot be restrained or civilised by a sentence but that need to be felt. Perhaps when we, in the words of the author Jeanette Winterson, ‘throw ourselves off the roof of our own house’ – that is when we shed all that we were and had, launching out into the vast unknown – we are in some way reborn. We become a baby again, the language to express the immensity of what we are feeling as yet unformed but experienced nonetheless. And we wait, and learn, and listen…and one day the words move across our tongues and spill out across our lips…and one day, later still, we turn the first page and the words fill us until we overflow. There is a moment when we are each that single, solitary utterance waiting for the sentence to take its shape.



  1. Christine Croft said,

    December 7, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    good to have you back.

  2. Julie said,

    December 7, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    I am always blown away by your writing Maria regardless of how it gets to the page 🙂 you have such a talent and I am very happy that you are writing your blog again, much love beautiful lady xxx

  3. luckyloom1 said,

    December 8, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    Thanks Julie and Chris – it means so much to me that you read and enjoy. Sending lots of love and a big hug to you both xxx

  4. lunabeith said,

    February 8, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    Absolutely brilliant. I know of several people who may benefit from your words, myself included. x you could share on FB

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: