Saturday, October 02, 2010

Try, try again.

“The road to Wisdom? Well, it's plain. And simple to express. Err and err, and err, again but less and less, and less." - Piet Hein

Last month, in preparation for our trip to Montréal, I polished my rusty high school and college French. I drove the streets of Columbus listening to French speakers inflect perfect sentences and attempted to repeat them. She said, "Bonjour." I said, "Bunnjerrr" with my loose, midwestern lips. While I especially hope to be understood when I want to know "Ou sont les toilettes?" I may never sound like a native speaker. I'm doing my best. I'm making the attempt.

Writing is like that too. The mind is vivid. The images are crisp and clear; the ideas coherent and logical. And then we take out the paper and the pen and it all goes to hell. My attempts may never capture the essence of my thoughts. With practice, however, I might come close. I must make the attempt.

The word "essay" comes from the French essai which means attempt or trial. That's what we do every time we put pen to page. We attempt to convey what's in our minds. We try to capture the character we've imagined. Whether it's the exquisite nutiness of a savory crepe or the way sound reverberates in La basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal, we can only attempt to get it right. What else is there to do but practice? In that way, we continue the attempt.

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