I was recently reminded of the quote from Buckminster Fuller:
R. Buckminster Fuller US architect & engineer (1895 - 1983)
When Fuller wrote his 1970 book, I Seem To Be A Verb, he was philosophizing more about himself — all of us, really — not as a category, but as a part of a process, part of the evolutionary march of the Universe.
With apologies to Fuller, my thoughts are not so elevated. What reminded me of his comment was that I’ve spent a lot of time lately trying to figure out why I have such a hard time writing descriptive narrative. (See the previous article: Descriptive Narrative and Other Sins of Omission). My first diagnosis was that I’m just not a very good ‘people person’ and don’t take enough notice of the characteristics of people I meet. Then I decided that I’m just not very good at description generally, not just of people. I still think there is an element of truth to both of those things, but now I have a new idea. I think I’m a verb!
Let me explain: It isn’t that I’m suggesting an above-average capacity for industriousness, or productivity. Anything but. In fact, I have been known to elevate idleness to dizzying new heights. No, it’s simply the way I think about things. I have a sneaky suspicion that it might be vaguely related to being American. If I were inclined to generalize, which heaven-forbid-I-would-never-do! I would be inclined to say that Americans generally think in verbs and the English — and by extension, Australians generally think in nouns. (oh-my-god I’ve said it and I’ll be castigated from Perth to Sydney for linking Australians to the English by extension.)
But wait up. All I mean to suggest is that the way we use the language is different in terms of verbs and nouns and things. And if I’m right about that having something to do with why I can’t write good descriptive narrative, it might also have something to say about the different way we think, culturally. An example: An American would say “Look at this.” A person of English/Australian persuasion would more likely say, “Have a look at this.” There are numerous such examples. Just think about it for a moment. (Or, have a think about it for a moment…) Nevermind that my theory completely ignores the fact that there are plenty of American writers who write brilliant descriptive narrative.
Anyway, I think I think in verbs. And maybe throw in a few adverbs. But adjectives do not roll off my tongue — or keyboard — so easily. It’s probably why I’ve never had an affinity for poetry. (Unless you count limericks, which I’m a devil at writing.) I just quickly reviewed the essay on Boxes I recently included in a post here, and it illustrates my point perfectly. I wrote an entire essay about boxes without ever describing a box.
I guess I don’t really mind that I think in verbs, but I’d like to know how to branch out a bit. Perhaps I should just pay closer attention to my cats: Pigeon is definitely a verb, with a huge ? at the end; Sophie is undoubtedly a fluffy noun, with a lot of flowery adjectives around the edge. What do you think you are? MM