Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Word drunk and my aching head

This past weekend I attended the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN. I was invited to come down and tell a story on one of their stages, an honor for which I feel deep gratitude. Thanks are especially due to Judith Black, a marvelous storyteller who advocated for me.

I am still processing the whole weekend, my performance, and what I hope may come of this. I heard many wonderful storytellers, strengthened existing relationships, built new ones, and was just utterly immersed in the world of spoken word (of a certain type) for a few days. It was wonderful, exhausting, encouraging, disheartening, overwhelming. A great big bite of living.

What I want to touch upon here is being word drunk and the subsequent hangover.

For four days I was utterly surrounded by words. Stories told and listened to. Conversations about stories. Overheard talk between spectators, and wonderful keeking. A maelstrom of words and wordplay. I was drunk on it. Drunk with listening and dreaming and telling and writing.

The first few days were just like having a drink or two. That glorious intoxication where everything seems just a bit more clever, everyone is just a bit more beautiful and I wanted that feeling to go on forever. I couldn't stop imbibing words, my vocabulary seemed to grow by leaps and bounds, words I had forgotten I knew came tripping off my tongue. Moonglade. Gnathonize. Wanweird. Fun, huh? Just like being drunk.

Then came the few words too many and I began to crave silence. Began to question why I was uttering all these words in the first place (not questioning others' words, just my own. Other people get to make their own choices about word addiction). My throat began to hurt, a real, bodily hint that I could perhaps shut up.

A few words more and I began to forget what I was saying. Nothing untoward came out of my mouth (as far as I recall) but I began to lapse into silence, just as I do when drinking, to make sure I won't say anything I'll regret later. My throat hurt enough that I couldn't really talk anymore, just the way drinking too much makes you lose the coordination you need to pour another drink.

Once we got home I found myself hung over from all the words. All I wanted was quiet, dark, and maybe some ibuprofen. No talk. Maybe some mindless television, Dexter seemed to be part of the cure.

But it's not over. Not by a long shot. My throat is almost better and, oh god, I find myself craving more. More words. I don't want the cheap stuff, no advertising labels or Reader's Digest for me. Big words. Hard words. Eloquent words strung together like pearls.

I need them. I need to hear them speakthemwritethembethem. Be drunk on them again. Even though I know it might not be good for me, even though I know this addiction could lead to a downward spiral where I forget how to speak again. "Hey man, ya got a pen? Could you spare a story?"

I'm willing to risk it. Even if there is no 12 step program for being a word drunk.

(c) 2007 Laura Packer Creative Commons License

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True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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