Song of Words: on writing rhythmically

Sometimes the teachers of writing like to talk about the rhythms words make as they are shaped into sentences. I never really knew what that meant. Rhythms? It seemed mysterious, and I confess I often prefer to avoid thinking too hard about the mysteries I encounter - wanting, if possible, to leave some part of them intact.

Still, I've found that as I've written more and more words over the past several years, I've had these moments where I've felt myself getting caught up in the musicality of my writing. I've felt, at times, as though my words were a song. Still a mystery, this song, but something with a clear sense of rhythm.

This morning I read something that beautifully illustrated the concept of rhythmic writing:

"This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals—sounds that say listen to this, it is important.” - Gary Provost

Provost shows us what rhythmic writing means. But I do not think he explains away the mystery, which must always find new life in every fresh bit of writing we create.

Go, then, my writing brethren and sistren, and find your own rhythmic, written songs. Write your way into the mystery.


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