The Communication Paradox
The goal of writing is to communicate ideas from one mind to another. But sometimes it’s difficult to find the right words. We all have these marvelous, complex, nuanced worlds inside of our heads. It is staggering that other people can’t see them. They’re so obvious.
Or sometimes you want to express to someone the depth and intensity of emotion that churns inside of you every time you see their smile. But the sensation is too big for words. So you stutter, and struggle, and stammer out “I love you” like you have eight billion times before.
You hope desperately that they understand that when you’re around them your blood cells become rose petals and the air becomes honey and when they smile that sweet hot wicked smile you feel like a dolphin must feel when it bursts out from the ocean after a deep dive and fills its lungs with tropical air. But the images hide under your tongue, and you don’t want to puree your metaphors.
Wouldn’t it be great if could abandon the clunky tool of language and pour our thoughts directly into each other’s open minds? Wouldn’t it solve all of the worlds communication problems if we could just ditch this inefficient talking nonsense and communicate telepathically?
If humans had telepathy there would be no miscommunication. Imagine that world for a moment. Every one of us would be able to convey to everyone else exactly what we thought, with no mistakes or errors.
Or subtleties. Or nuances. Or metaphor, symbolism, or poetic imagery. Because nuances are by definition ideas that are not conveyed clearly. They are tiny little things, clinging to the edges of our words and hiding in the shadows cast by our expressions. What is poetry but an attempt to communicate in small packets of words ideas that should take a thousand pictures?
The goal of writing is to communicate ideas from one mind to another. But the beauty of writing comes not from the perfection of communication, but from its flaws. The power of writing emerges from the way sentences planted by the writer blossom into great torrents of foliage in the reader’s mind.
Therein lies the paradox of writing. As a writer it is your task to communicate your ideas with purity and clarity. But the strength of your writing lies in its carefully sculpted use of miscommunication. It lies in the gaps between what you intend to say and the flawed and limited medium with which you say it.
There is no magic in the word sunset. Those six letters alone cannot convey the majesty of the pink light as it scatters across the cloud-laced twilight sky.Your writing cannot perfectly pluck the sunset from your brain and flick it into the eye of your reader. But somewhere in every reader’s mind is the memory of that moment when they looked up at a sunset and it was magical. If you choose your words with care, maybe you can reach in, touch that memory, and wake it up.
That is the paradox of writing. Not to achieve perfection, but to fail spectacularly.